Over the long-distance phone lines, you can hear the radio in the apartment of Barbara Mandel. You can hear the radio giving her the news, and you can imagine her sitting there, sitting there with her daughter Ellen, the two of them holding hands. Ellen crying, taking each guilty count like yet another lash, another plague - guilty, guilty, guilty.
They have been out jogging, the mother and the daughter. They had decided to spend this week together, so Ellen, 29, came up from Miami, where she is a lawyer, and moved into her mother's apartment on Park Heights Avenue. They had just come back in when the phone rang. It was a reporter. A verdict was expected. They turned on the radio.
Now Barbara Mandel had gone into another room to talk. The radio was just a dim buzz in the background, and she was going to say something toward the end about how this all wouldn't have happened if Marvin Mandel had not left her. You have to understand that she did not say it right off, and she did not say it with any malice or bitterness or as if to appear to be gloating. She said it matter-of-factly, and you have to say, at the very least, that there is plenty of evidence to back her up. There is a whole trial proving, at the very least, that Marvin Mandel reached too early and too far, and he reached, really, because he wanted a woman more than he wanted anything else.
There is a line that kept buzzing in my head all the time I was in Baltimore waiting for the jury to return its verdict. It's a line from the song "Send in the Clowns," and it says something about "losing my timing so late in my career." I keep thinking of Mandel. I think of him because this man was the one who always took the long view, the one who counseled patience, who told everyone to wait - whose epitaph, someone said, should be: "We'll work it out."
He had been around a long time. He had been around long enough to know that politics is mostly a game of waiting. You waited and you waited and then you made your move and when you moved, you made it count. Simple. You think it takes a genius to figure that out? It doesn't. Richard Daley knew it and Lyndon Johnson knew it and Marvin Mandel knew it. Patience: Wait. It will come.
So now Barbara Mandel is on the phone, and she is saying more or less what I have been thinking She is saying how life could have been wonderful. She is saying how Marvin Mandel wanted to either be a senator or to return to his law practice. He could have made money. He could have made lots of money and assuming - ok, saying - he's a crook, saying that, you still have not said why he could not have waited until he became a lawyer again, and the money would have come to him in legal fees. Where was the patience? What was the rush?
Up here, where I have come on vacation, first the phone rings and then the radio reports. Guilty, the radio says. It says little else. It says that Marvin Mandel is only the third governor in American history to be convicted of political corruption while in office, and then this little station goes direct to Baltimore, and I am listening to some fellow who sat next to me in the press room, and he is saying the guilties for us. Then the voice of Attorney General Bill Burch comes on and he talks about the Maryland Constitution.
You can close your eyes and see the portable radios on the beach and hear people telling one another that Marvin Mandel has been found guilty. He is a crook. They are all crooks.
The radio got me mad. The radio didn't say that he had been a good governor. The radio didn't say anything about his insurance bill and his transportation bill and his aid to education bill. The radio didn't say a word about the time he discovered someone had cut funds to school lunches and ordered the money restored - right away.No questions asked. The radio didn't even mention Jeanne.The radio didn't say one word about how the governor who had it all, who knew it all, lost it all.
Now Barbara Mandel is on the phone. At first her voice is weak. She speaks softly and somewhat automatically: "I am very very disappointed in the jury verdict. I really, truly thought they would find him not guilty. I feel very strongly about the whole thing because I know how hard it was for us to get to the top of the ladder. This is something I certainly did not want to see for him or for our family. What else can I say?"
"How are you?" I ask.
"I'm all right. I feel terrible for Marvin and I feel terrible for the children. They saw such greatness in their father; now they see this."
Ellen is ai the other room, she says. Her daughter is "devastated."
"She can't believe that anything like that can happen to her father." We talk some about Ellen. Barbara Mandel is very proud of her daughter - master's degree in international law, she keeps telling you. Gone back to using her maiden name. Bright woman. On her own. Sitting now in the other room. Devastated. Then she talked again of her former husband.
"I know if he had stayed with me I feel that none of this would have happened. You can print that. I have to be honest with my feelings. I don't want people to think I'm gloating, but I have to be honest with my feelings."
In the end you have to give Marvin Mandel at least that much too. He was honest about one thing - his feelings.