These are the times that try men's souls.
Oh, the agony of it all! Loyal foot soldiers of William Donald Schaefer are up in arms. They are furious about being criticized for slapping their leader's name on every building, bridge and byway they can find before the governor leaves office.
It's become an obsession for them. He'll have more Maryland landmarks named for him than anyone since the founding Calverts -- and their name didn't appear on edifices until long after their deaths.
Some have even compared this monument lust to the communist "cult of personality" last espoused by North Korea's late Kim Il Sung. That may be carrying things a bit far: There's no five-story statue of Kim Il Don in front of the State House. Not yet.
His name will endure for ever.
There's no question that Mr. Schaefer deserves to be remembered. His 15 years as mayor of Baltimore were spectacular. His first term as governor established his reputation as a far-sighted builder and reformer. But he has stumbled during his second term, due in part to the recession. Polls say most Marylanders don't hold him in high regard.
Other governors who achieved far more have only a few monuments in their names -- the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge across the Chesapeake; the Gov. Albert C. Ritchie Highway; the Theodore R. McKeldin Library at College Park. But their supporters didn't get carried away, and none of these namings took place while the governor was in office.
Vain the ambition of kings
Who seek by trophies and dead things
To leave a living name behind,
And weave but nets to catch the wind.
-- John Webster
The eagerness of the Schaefer acolytes to preserve his name in granite and steel could lead to memorializing other stars in the Schaefer constellation.
For instance, the current resident of the Governor's Mansion could wake up one day to find a sign over the gateway -- the Hilda Mae Snoops Mansion.
The governor's corrections czar could find a penal facility named the Bishop L. Robinson Boot Camp.
That open space next to the Snoops Mansion could be dedicated to the governor's Girl Friday -- the Lainy LeBow-Sachs Plaza.
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
And what of the next administration? Surely the first monument to a Gov. Helen Bentley would be the Bentley Port of Baltimore. Not far behind might be the Howard A. Denis Skybox at Camden Yards.
If Democrat Parris Glendening wins, look for the George R. Hughes MVA Service Center in Cumberland (to honor his wife's late father, a former House minority leader) and Glendening Plaza at College Park, where the candidate teaches.
Legislators are sure to join in the name-calling. How about a Camp Cade (for Senate minority leader John A. Cade) to instill discipline in juvenile delinquents? The Mike Miller Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, one of the Senate president's most embarrassing pieces of pork; the Casper Taylor Conference Center at Rocky Gap, a project dear to the heart of the House speaker; the R. Clayton Mitchell Medevac Helipad at Centreville, named for the retired speaker; and the Julian Lapides Library in the new City Jail to honor the retiring city lawmaker.
Oh breathe not his name! let it sleep in the shade,
Where cold and unhonor'd his relics are laid.
-- Thomas Moore
There are some individuals whose names are best left off public buildings. You'll never see, for instance, the Dontay Carter Detention Center. Don't look for the Marvin Mandel International Airport, either. Or the Daniel B. Brewster Courthouse.
But if a Republican were to re-gain the Governor's -- oops, the Snoops -- Mansion, expect a push to rehabilitate the last GOP chief executive, a fellow named Agnew. Critics might propose something dark and dingy -- like the "Supermax" prison in Baltimore, but a more fitting place to recognize the ex-vice president would be in his sometime residence, Ocean City. How about the Spiro T. Agnew Convention and Conference Center?
I have built a monument more lasting than bronze.
There is a pragmatic -- and commercial -- way to approach this problem. Why not lionize these political lions by plastering their names in lights? Chick and Ruth's Delly in Annapolis has the right idea. Give politicians a few moments -- or years or decades -- of glory by naming sandwiches after them. The "Governor Mandel" is still on C&R;'s menu after lo these many years of infamy and rebound -- chopped liver and corned beef on rye.
And don't forget the "William Donald Schaefer" sandwich -- kosher hot dog with melted American cheese and a slice of bologna.
Now that's a tasteful memorial!
If you would see the man's monument, look around.
-- Sir Christopher Wren's son
History is still the ultimate judge of a politician's contributions. Best to wait till an official is long gone to assess his or her worth in the overall scheme of things. Besides, it's not really necessary to dedicate a skyscraper to an individual. If you've done your job well, the results speak for themselves.
By the way, have you seen any big memorials to Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington? There is none -- nearly a half-century after his death. And yet his accomplishments touch each of our lives -- every day. Now that's a lasting monument.
E9 Barry Rascovar is editorial-page director of The Sun.