Political discourse in Maryland acquired a new tone last weekend in Ocean City, where the state's Republicans met to trumpet their chances in 1994 and to hail President Clinton as their best organizing tool.
The party's chairman, Joyce Lyons Terhes, was not content to let Mr. Clinton flounder in a sea of calamity. She called him "a philandering, lying, draft dodger [who] would let his wife be president of the United States."
"We didn't elect her, and only 43 percent of us elected him," she said.
Referring to broken promises and changes of position, she predicted he would turn himself into "a screaming soprano" by leaping from one side of the issue fence to the other. She called him a "yahoo" and told a joke that compared Mrs. Clinton to a streetwalker.
Throwing in a little word play for good measure, she said the first lady's use of her maiden name means she is guilty of "Rodhamy."
By this time, a few "slick Willie" references seemed tame and dated. In a sense that was Mrs. Terhes' objective. She wanted to bring us all up to date on the mud-slinging front.
Jokes poured out about the president's $200, end-of-the runway coiffure: His political epitaph would be "Hair today, gone tomorrow," another party official suggested. The faithful laughed, but a bit dutifully on occasion as if they were taken aback by some of the humor.
In time, Mrs. Terhes explained that she was enunciating a sort of invective imperative: The problems of Washington have lost their Republican identity and no quarter should be given in assigning blame to the Democrats.
"Whatever it is from now on, they did it. And it's our responsibility to attack them," she said.
A party chairman, of course, is the ideal designated pit bull.
A GOP candidate might wish to criticize, but in terms more
appropriate to the high road all candidates insist they are traveling. Anxious for votes from any quarter, the office seeker must avoid offending voters who harbor hope for the Clinton presidency.
Mrs. Terhes' verbal shots suggest she believes anything goes for a party chairman.
That would not be the view of Vera Hall, the Baltimore councilwoman and chair of the state Democratic Party.
"She's doing that Rush Limbaugh junk," she says, referring to the popular and acerbic talk show host. "All they want to do is bash Clinton. He just got there. It's unfair, and I think people will get sick of them."
Of course, Ms. Hall's leader and his team in the White House provided irresistible targets.
Even if that were not so, name-calling often works in politics. Oh, sure, a few people are horrified by it. But the victim is trapped. If he doesn't respond, the mud might stick. If he does hit back, he mustn't sound like a whiner.
So, get ready for a mud storm.
Prince George's chief pays visit to Baltimore
Members of the Parris N. Glendening fan club will tell you the political center of gravity in Maryland has moved somewhat closer to Prince George's County, where Mr. Glendening presides as executive.
But no candidate for governor will ignore Baltimore. So yesterday, for the third time in two weeks, he was belting out his message inside the city limits, this time for a small contingent of the Maryland Press Club during lunch at the Cross Keys Inn. He had previously appeared before the Mount Royal Democratic Club on Bolton Hill and at the center-city political club of Sen. Larry Young.
Mr. Glendening said yesterday that he believes an intramural squabbling between Baltimore and the Washington area counties misses the point.
"Our competition isn't [within Maryland]," he said, "It's with the other Middle Atlantic states." Whoever runs the state in the future, he said, has to treat all regions fairly. Otherwise, the competition for industry will be lost -- and other states will have jobs that Marylanders need.
Salute to the senator
Montgomery County has a 1994 Democratic candidate for governor, too.
At least one.
Sen. Mary Boergers was also in Baltimore yesterday meeting with supporters. She's having a fund-raiser -- a Woman's Salute -- on June 8 at Strathmore Hall, 10701 Rockville Pike, in Rockville.