WILLIAM DONALD Schaefer suggests that Martin O'Malley needs to do more campaigning on behalf of Kathleen K. Townsend. Schaefer called the mayor about this last week, putting Don Donaldo among several Democratic pols who think O'Mayor should be more passionate in his support of the party's gubernatorial candidate. This from Schaefer, who jumped ship in 1992 to endorse George Bush for president over Bill Clinton.
But Schaefer's machinations in both elections, 10 years apart, raise that question pols hate - whether they're obligated to get in line and endorse their party's candidate for major office, even if they can't stand that candidate.
It's an open question these days because there's not a lot of that "party loyalty" thing going around anymore. I was shocked to see a bumper sticker the other day that said, "Proud to be a Maryland Democrat." Some pols seem ashamed to be called one thing or the other. Check out campaign signs. It's rare that you see a candidate's party affiliation next to his or her name. In such murky light, party leaders might no longer feel bound to toe the line.
Plus, in O'Malley's case, there's the matter of ego. He had his eyes on Annapolis, too, and fueled speculation about a candidacy for governor all the way to early June. The day he finally announced he would not run against KKT in the party primary, he never mentioned her name. He referred to a "vacuum of leadership in the state Democratic Party," and made a half-hearted statement about supporting the Democratic nominee. He was kind of pouty about the whole thing.
He's coming around now apparently. He gave a forceful speech on KKT's behalf Monday in Greenbelt.
But still, I look at O'Malley and the way things are going - KKT slipping in the polls behind Ehrlich - and I think back to the Saturday Night Live comic Jon Lovitz, playing Michael Dukakis to Dana Carvey's George Bush. In a spoof on the 1988 presidential debate, Carvey went into one of his ditzy Bush babbles - "Let me sum up: On track, stay the course, thousand points of light" - and Lovitz, asked for rebuttal, said, "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy!"
O'Malley probably watches KKT's performance and says, "I can't believe I'm not running!"
But it's not just ego driving that. It's also this: O'Malley reflects the ambivalence of a lot of Maryland Democrats, who have been slow to warm up to KKT.
Looks like he's getting on board now, as that antique idea called "party loyalty" - not to mention his father-in-law, Joe Curran, or his wife, Kathleen - says he should.
If O'Malley's support of KKT grows in small increments, it's OK. And if the campaign passes without him getting out his guitar and singing, "It's A Great Day For The Irish" at a Townsend campaign rally, that would be fine, too. Really, it's OK, O-Man. Unless KKT pays big for the gig, leave the guitar home.
Consulting ethics code
It's starting to get nasty out there - Bob Ehrlich TV ads calling the Townsend-Glendening administration corrupt, and one of Townsend's people pointing out the presence of Bruce Bereano, a lobbyist who served time, and Clarence Mitchell IV, the Baltimore senator reprimanded for ethics violations, in the Ehrlich camp.
The campaign is heating up and candidates are preparing for debates, and you can bet political consultants are all over them with advice.
So I think this is a good time to publish the code of ethics of the American Association of Political Consultants. Believe it or not, there is such a document. I picked up a copy at the same store, Oxymorons R Us, where they sell jumbo shrimp, long-sleeve T-shirts and airline food.
"I will not indulge in any activity which would corrupt or degrade the practice of political consulting." (That's like Anna Nicole Smith pledging not to do anything to degrade the quality of television in America.)
"I will treat my colleagues and clients with respect and never intentionally injure their professional or personal reputations." (Of course not, it's political opponents whose reputations you're supposed to ruin.)
"I will use no appeal to voters which is based on racism, sexism, religious intolerance or any form of unlawful discrimination and will condemn those who use such practices." (Right, and Julius Henson won't call Bob Ehrlich a Nazi ever again.)
"I will refrain from false or misleading attacks on an opponent or member of his or her family and will do everything in my power to prevent others from using such tactics." (Yes, and as soon as he reads this, Bob Ehrlich will order his media consultant to pull that ad suggesting Townsend is corrupt.)
"I will document accurately and fully any criticism of an opponent or his or her record." (We all know the pains to which political consultants will go to back up their candidates' cheap shots.)
"I will be honest in my relationship with the news media and candidly answer questions." (The only "candid" political consultant in America is the one who just got fired, or hired by a cable channel.)
"I will use any funds I receive from my clients, or on behalf of my clients, only for those purposes invoiced in writing." (See U.S. vs. Bereano, campaign-contribution fraud scheme, 1994.)