Glendening Drops Clinton Fund-Raiser
and Donald P. Baker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 6, 1998; Page A01
Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening firmly distanced himself from President Clinton yesterday, canceling a fund-raiser with the president that once promised to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars for the governor's tough reelection bid.
With private polls and analysts telling him that Clinton's appeal is sagging dramatically among some Maryland voters, Glendening (D) offered his sharpest criticism yet of the president but declined to say whether Congress should censure him. Glendening campaign sources said the White House was dismayed by the governor's move and tried to persuade him to go forward with the fund-raiser.
The blow stung, party officials said, because Maryland is a strongly Democratic state and Glendening once had aligned himself closely with the president and defended him initially in the Monica S. Lewinsky scandal.
White House spokeswoman Amy Weiss said, "President Clinton has stood by Governor Glendening in the course of his tough reelection bid, and we will find an appropriate way to support the ticket in the future."
Glendening campaign insiders said they were having great difficulty selling tickets to the Clinton fund-raiser. They also feared the event could backfire on the governor if it coincided with independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's long-awaited report to Congress, which may include new allegations of presidential wrongdoing.
Clinton's "actions were wrong, inappropriate and demanding of a sincere, major apology," Glendening told reporters as he began a day of campaigning in Baltimore. "We have an 18-year-old son, and we try to teach him to be responsible for his actions, and you need models in terms of how to do that, and this makes it even worse."
Asked whether Clinton should be censured, Glendening said, "That's going to have to come down to Congress, because who knows what the report says?"
On Friday, Glendening announced he would not attend Clinton's visit next Tuesday to a Silver Spring school because of a previous commitment near Baltimore. Instead, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) will join Clinton at Pine Crest Elementary.
Less than three weeks ago -- just after Clinton's televised admission of an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky -- Glendening said he planned to stick with the fund-raiser. He said then that Clinton still "has great draw and great popularity."
Yesterday, however, the governor said, "It's pretty clear that this is becoming a continuing and increasing controversy that makes it very, very difficult to address some of the major challenges that are facing us."
Glendening said he hopes Vice President Gore will attend a fund-raiser for him this fall.
Maryland Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey said of Glendening's decision to cancel the Clinton fund-raiser: "I'm sure that he has been reading the tea leaves and decided that it was not in his best political interest. And he did what Glendening always does, which is to do what is in his political best interest."
If Clinton had hosted a Glendening fund-raiser, she said, "it would not have gone unnoticed by our campaign." She noted that Glendening and his allies often criticize her for having had Iran-contra figure Oliver North host a fund-raiser for her this year.
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's), a staunch supporter of Glendening and Clinton, disputed that tickets were difficult to sell. Clinton "brought us to the dance, and I think we ought to stick with him," he said. "He needs our prayers. He needs our support."
Democratic pollster R. Harrison Hickman called the governor's decision an overreaction. "Parris Glendening will be elected or not elected based on how people think he has performed as governor and who they think can do the best job over the next four years, not whether or not he shows up at a fund-raiser with Bill Clinton," he said.
But campaigning yesterday with Glendening, former governor William Donald Schaefer said his successor was "smart" to cancel the fund-raiser. "I talked to some people and [they said] the Democratic vote may be off 8 percent, due directly to the president," said Schaefer, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for comptroller. "People are just waiting for the next shoe to fall."
A Glendening worker said polls show especially deep discontent with Clinton among "college-educated, white, D.C. area voters." The worker said analysts believe Washington area voters are particularly sensitive because they've been saturated with Lewinsky coverage by the news media.
Most of the thousands of people who were enjoying the 22nd annual Washington Irish Festival yesterday at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg had more important things on their mind than politics -- like dancing the jig and swigging the Guinness.
But the few who were willing to talk politics agreed, no matter whether they like Glendening, that he is wise to distance himself from the president.
"It's a plus for the Democrats that they have a belief system," said Kevin Keane, 42, a private investigator from Pasadena. A Democrat and former Baltimore County police officer, Keane said he is switching to the GOP because too many Democrats -- and he named Clinton, Glendening and "the Kennedys," including the lieutenant governor -- "follow a morality of rationalization."
Steve DeVito, of Pasadena, said "accountability . . . is the president's problem. I agree that Glendening should run away from Clinton."
Staff writers Peter Baker and Scott Wilson contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company