WASHINGTON -- Freshman Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett raised eyebrows yesterday at the Maryland congressional delegation's annual meeting by asking why so many winners of a national scholarship program were Asians and Middle Easterners instead of "normal" people.
In a rambling response to Gov. William Donald Schaefer's presentation before the state's senators and congressmen, Mr. Bartlett questioned why only about a third of the Westinghouse Science Talent Search scholarships went to students with what he called "normal names."
Leafing through a list of winners of the annual math and science scholarship program, the 6th District Republican said he noticed that "about half had Asian names, five or six went to people with Middle Eastern names" and only about a third went to students with "normal names."
Heads in the audience snapped up and people began to whisper as Mr. Barlett, who represents Western Maryland, argued that Asian students and others have a "family structure which inspires and restrains them and enables them to succeed."
Asked later what he meant by "normal" names, Mr. Bartlett said he meant no offense and that perhaps he should have used the word "European." The scholarship winners "are obviously not a cross-section of our schools. These are not the usual American people."
"I think they're super-Americans," he said. "Their moral architecture restrains them from smoking pot or playing hooky. . . . We need to look at what is different about that segment. We can all do that well."
Not long afterward, Mr. Bartlett had the governor up in arms after criticizing public officials.
"I can't let that go unanswered," responded Mr. Schaefer.
"People in your district are continually asking me for help, people who are unemployed," the governor said. "The vast majority of people in public life are honest and ethical, and you're going to find that the longer you're here. . . . I'm sick of that characterization."