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September 27, 2006

Mike Miller: He's a Contender

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last Wednesday evening, the telephone wires and computer screens lit-up across the state screaming that Maryland Senate President Thomas V. (Mike) Miller, Jr., (D., Calvert and Prince George's) took offense at a land-use hearing in southern Maryland at someone's verbal support of the Senator Miller's opponent; and it was alleged that he hauled-off and punched him.

Advancing age allows me to recognize political silliness when I see it; but if that really happened, it is a serious miss-step on the part of our illustrious Senate president - one of many in the last year or so.

Apparently there is no truth to the rumor that they argued over the merits of Geritol. The Washington Times reported that "Mr. (Mike) Miller's spokeswoman, however, said nothing happened. 'It's not true,' Lisa McMurray said last night. 'I don't know what to tell you.' "

Well, I know what to tell ya. Considering the erratic behavior of the Senate president in the last year, many are going to be predisposed to believe that it happened and that President Miller is showing symptoms of advancing age, far beyond his years.

Senator Miller has served in the Maryland Senate for 31 years. For 19 of those years, he has reigned as president.

That length of service commands respect; however, increasing whispers across the state are that many have grown tired of his intemperate remarks and erratic behavior, to the point that Mike Miller's name is increasingly mentioned in the same paragraph as Mayor-Governor-Comptroller William Donald Schaefer.

Is it possible that the peripatetic senator is showing the signs of leadership fatigue? Could it be that Senator Miller would better serve the public calling out bingo numbers?

A casual observer, monitoring his behavior over the last several years, would conclude that his job was not to administer the day-to-day business of the Senate, but rather to ensure that a Democrat governor is elected in the next gubernatorial election. That plays well to the hard-nosed partisan but certainly does not resonate at the kitchen table level.

For Pete's sake, one can easily characterize the behavior of a number of the members of Maryland's Democrat leadership as exhibiting the behavior of a two-year old in a high chair throwing food. But, whatever your politics, no-one wants to believe that the president of the Maryland Senate really physically struck someone - anyone, for that matter.

The once proud Maryland General Assembly is already the laughing stock of the nation. However, as much as any of us can mutter under our breath that the august institution deserves that accolade, ultimately, such a characterization of Maryland's lawmaking body is a reflection upon all of us. Eventually, inevitably, all of us are hurt by the Maryland General Assembly's recent lapses in judgment and childish behavior.

No, it has not been a good year for the Silver Fox - President Miller.

The senator was quoted in the January 13, 2006, edition of The Gazette: "Senate President Mike Miller started it off Tuesday, telling a raucous bunch of Democrats that Bob Ehrlich's service to Marylanders is akin to a one-eyed bull humping a cow." Oh, now isn't that just beautiful? I once had a crotchety old uncle that talked like that when he had his teeth in and you could understand him.

The Gazette also reported: ". Miller's comments in The (Baltimore) Sun that Dems would shoot down high-flying GOP members and bury the GOP 'face down. We're going to put them in the ground, and it'll be 10 years before they crawl out again,' quoth the Silver Fox. Miller looked chagrined at having his words repeated, and laughed off the remarks as being directed at Bob Ehrlich and Mike Steele, not Senate Republicans."

On January 23, 2006, Jon Ward wrote a Washington Times' piece, saying that "Miller's words fire up rivals." . "Lenny Alcivar, Mr. Steele's campaign spokesman, said his office was aware of Mr. Miller's quote. "I think it's safe to say that given the broad support that the lieutenant governor and the governor are clearly showing and given the feedback from Marylanders ... [Mr. Miller] will wake up one day soon and regret that lapse in judgment,' Mr. Alcivar said."

Perhaps the day that President Miller woke up to regret those words was last Thursday.

Meanwhile there is no confirmation that President Miller is awakened daily to the theme song from the Sylvester Stallone movie series, "Rocky." One can just see president "Slugger" Miller in front of the mirror in the morning, repeating to himself, "I'm a contender. I'm a contender," as he shadow boxes his way to some prune juice, yogurt and toast.

Chances are that President Miller is not toast yet and that Anne Arundel and Prince George's voters will return President Miller to the Senate.

But many in Annapolis believe that it is time for the Senate president to retire to presiding over the shuffle board courts. It is looking as if there will be some changes in the Democrat make-up of the Senate for the next legislative session and whispers in the hallway are that folks want a change.

There is no doubt that a majority of Marylanders want to see the refreshing wind of change, brought to the Statehouse by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. continue. Increasingly many Marylanders recognize that in order for the changes to continue, change needs to also happen in the Maryland General Assembly.

The courts have overturned a number of high profile legislative initiatives of the Democrat leadership in the last several months and many voters are having conversations over the kitchen table and the backyard fence that all the anti-gubernatorial gotcha obstructionism and partisan politics are getting old.

Apparently the Silver Fox is also getting old and showing some gray. Everyone loves a crotchety old uncle - but not when they are running the legislative body that makes so many decisions that affect the rocking chair issues of every Marylander.

President Mike Miller - oh, he's a contender all right - for retirement.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at:

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