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June 1, 2012

How to be a Governor!

Harry M. Covert

It’s no longer true that the “business of America is business.” Today, the business of American society is politics, the continuing campaigns for public office, the daily money begging to fund these races on all levels. And it’s not cheap to mount these battles for the public hearts and minds.


The above quote is always attributed to Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president. But what he really said was: "After all, the chief business of the American people is business." He made these remarks in 1925 to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington. Can you believe the media would “edit” Silent Cal’s speech?


Of course, politics, as well as the money, makes the “world go round;” and it’s great fun to be on the sidelines watching the ambitious. Nowadays they all want to be just one of the average people. Frankly, there are lots of jobs for the professional politicians, and I like to see them work even though they’re getting as irritating to me as the obnoxious insurance commercials everywhere you look, listen or read.


One of our colleagues in these pages, Blaine Young, is a local political leader and apparently a good one. Like so many others before him, he’s set his sights on the Governor’s Mansion in Annapolis.


What I don’t see these days are candidates in the style of the late William Donald Schaefer, the indomitable politician par excellence who by any measure was a character of the highest order. He was certainly loyal to his friends, effective and from the old school. He didn’t give a hoot for political correctness and his opponents were always trying to paint him as a nut, for which he was not.


Back in the days when he was governor, it was my habit to sail my boat on a regular basis from Shady Oaks Marina to Annapolis, spending time eating crab cakes, Maryland crab soup and other delicacies. It wasn’t unusual to see the Guv, sans his white naval uniform, walking from the capital to one of the familiar restaurants. He was always smiling, shaking hands and having a good time.


It was during this time he found himself embroiled in a battle of letters, sent to some critical constituents throughout the Eastern Shore and other areas around and about. He made his point by having State Troopers deliver his missives. The deliveries were made about midnight. I know being awakened by the distinguished, well-uniformed and well-mannered troopers caused great consternation among the recipients.


I thought it was a grand idea, though, especially when Governor Schaefer’s critics could say what they wanted, true or not, just to try and embarrass him.


I wrote the governor, complimented him on his clever epistolary intercourse and noted I was impressed with his sense of humor. Within five days he responded with a thank you. He wrote I was apparently the only one who got his jokes.


To my delight I was invited to many receptions where I met his longtime companion Hilda Mae Snoops. He introduced me to the late broadcaster Ron Smith with whom he had a love-hate relationship. Ron also expressed the same mutual feelings. Ron was a great talk show host for years, probably the best and could have had national shows but chose to stay in Baltimore.


I don’t see any characters out there today. People can say what they want about Don Schaefer, but he was a true blue Marylander. He’s the guy who fixed-up what they call Charm City, led the revival of the Inner Harbor, and was the main cog in getting the classic Oriole Park at Camden Yards built for the Baltimore Orioles. He also was the key figure in returning professional football to Baltimore and building M&T Stadium for the Ravens.


He was distraught when the Colts sneaked out of town in the middle of the snowy night.


On one occasion I was stuffing myself along with some friends at Haussner’s, the famous east Baltimore restaurant filled with excellent food and art treasures. Don Schaefer was next to us, and, as always, promoting the city and the state.


It was my thought the new football stadium should be named for him and said so. “It’s not about me,” he said. “Besides, there would be too much uproar.” He grinned.


I liked his spunk. He liked the sting of political battle. Like his style or not, he got things done to the best interests of everybody. He was never deterred by critics.


Those who want to be governors should take lessons from the Schaefer School.


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