His mind's fine, Schaefer assures callers, reporters


Gov. William Donald Schaefer, still under fire for calling the Eastern Shore an outhouse, has declared on a radio talk show that his mind is "as clear as it's ever been" and appeared refreshed as he joked with reporters at a wide-ranging news conference.

The governor, who angered some Shore voters last Friday by labeling their area a "s---house," said yesterday the brouhaha is "one of the silliest things I have ever seen in my whole life."

"It takes people's minds off of the war," Schaefer said. "It gives them something else to talk about and to play games with."

(A vast majority of the 1,857 respondents to The Evening Sun's non-scientific phone survey believe Schaefer's remarks were just plain rude. See results and details of the poll on Page A6.)

An amiable Schaefer, appearing refreshed after a three-day visit to Washington for a national governors meeting, fielded questions yesterday about everything from the dreary state budget to his colorful necktie. Later in the day, he surprised lawmakers when he made rare appearances at two committee hearings.

Schaefer's off-color remark about the Eastern Shore prompted a steady stream of calls to radio talk shows this week. Schaefer listened in and called one radio show himself Tuesday. The governor said yesterday that he had told one caller from Salisbury who inquired about his mental health, "My mind is as clear as it's ever been."

Schaefer insisted he had only been joking with a longtime friend when he made the private remark about the Eastern Shore that later was reported publicly.

Was it a joke, too, asked reporters, when he announced that he is considering a run for the Oval Office?

"In a way it was. In a way it's not," Schaefer replied.

Schaefer, in Washington Monday for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, told a breakfast gathering of Democratic governors that he is considering seeking the presidency.

He admitted that his remark caught his fellow governors by surprise, including Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder, who was seated near him.

"His lovely gray hair turned black," said Schaefer.

Although Schaefer said he is not displeased with President Bush's performance in the White House, he said his comment about running for the office arose from his frustrations with the federal government.

Schaefer's surprise visit to the committee hearings yesterday prompted applause at one and a welcome-back overture at another.

Although there are no rules barring a governor from observing a committee at work, Schaefer rarely leaves his State House office to venture into committee hearing rooms.

At a House Economic Matters Committee hearing, Schaefer spoke briefly about some of his administration bills, then offered lawmakers a chance to criticize him.

"Any blasts you want to give me?" he asked.

No one took the opportunity.

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