EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE. I think of Jack Miller - Herbert J. (Jack) Miller Jr., if you want to be formal. He probably is best known as Richard Nixon's lawyer, but there are some who know him from his days in the Justice Department and there are even some who know him as a social person from Maryland's hunt country. To me he is the man who once ran for lieutnant governor of Maryland under a terrible misapprehension. He thought someone would listen.
This was in Jack Miller's pre-Nixon days. He had already been with Bobby Kennedy in the Justice Department where he had earned a reputation as brilliant hard-working and a very nice guy. When he announced for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, everyone was surprised. Miller, it was clear, was going to get wiped out. Miller, it soon developed, know perfectly well he was going to lose. What he wanted was an audience. What he got was a pasting.
The position papers starting coming. Oh my-there were a lot of them. Miller was all over the place. He had looked at the Maryland criminal code and he was aghast - chagrined, irate, incredulous. I mean, the code had not been revised in something like 200 years. You could still kill slaves or something . Jack Miller wanted to bring this to the attention of the voters. Jack Miller wanted someone to listen. Jack Miller lost by nearly 2 to 1. That was right. What was not all right that no one listened.
What brings this up now is a lunch recently at The Post where the guest was Walter S. Orlinsky, president of Baltimore's City council, candidate for governor of Maryland and, in his own way, a latter-day Jack Miller. Wally as those who know him call him, stands about as much chance of winning as Miller did a while back. If there is a difference between them, it is that Jack Miller was sort of slumming when he ran. To Orlinsky, though, politics is no midwife's pasage. It is his life and he takes his gubernatorial race very seriously. You and he, though, stand about as much chance as winning. Such, I fear, is the truth.
Now I think there are some things I should tell you about Orlinsky. The first is that he is very funny. The second is that he has what I call "move" - he can move to either his, right or his left, in baseball parlance, and cover the bag extremely well. He is a good politian. He knows things and he keeps his ear to whatever you're supposed keep it to in Baltimore - I doubt it's the ground. To a newspaper person, Orlinsky is what is known as a good source. No higher praise have we for any better man.
So back when Maryland was my beat and politics was my passion. I would visit occasionally with Orlinsky in that slum of an office he has in Baltimore's City Hall. You would always learn something - laugh a bit and learn something. The French think that a day without wine is a day without sunshine. They know from nothing. A day without a story is a day without sunshine. Wally can always bring you some sunlight, only sometimes he would also want to talk issues - subways, education, population paterns, municipal contracts. If you waited , it would pass. Soon the jokes would come back. Soon he would stop trying to talk issues with me. I was grateful.
Anyway, on this political day Orlinsky is at lunch and he comes alone - no aides. This I figure is a gimmick, like Jimmy Carter carying his own travel bag, and he starts, routinely enough, with some jokes and the usuals swipe enough with some jokes and the usuals swipe at the press - how we are not paying any attention to their campaign. It is us, he says, who pick the contenders. The winners, of course, are picked by the voters. He goeson like that and then somewhere he turns serious and starts to discuss the issues.
He got into the subject of the Baltimore subway. I spare you the details, but the gist of it was that it was no only not needed, but it was being built in the wrong place to boot. That made me sit up a bit. I thought only pro-highway nuts were opposed to the Baltimore subway. From there, he went into education, saying that it might be a good idea for Maryland to join with Delaware and Virginia in building a university or college on the Eastern Shore that would serve all three states. THis, I tell you, is herrsy. I mean, what about the football team? He went on like this, and while I don't know if he's right or even close to the money, I do know that he seemed to make sense and he seemed also to know what what he was talking about. What he was talking about of course, were issues I was. I have to tell you, impressed.
It was some time during that lunch that I felt pretty ashamed. I know Orlinsky a few years now and every time we talked it was laughs and gossip. And then later, I thought of Jack Miller as a way to get into this column. All I wanted to say, really, is that I don't think I, for one, ever gave Wally Orlinsky a fair shake, and I think he's right when he accuses us in the press of paying more attention to the manufacturing of an image - Bill Burch working as a laborer, for crying out loud - than the issues themselves. I'm not asking you to vote for the guy. I happen to think highly of some of the other candidates and besides I would't have the temerity to make an endorsement. I am asking instead for something else. I think Jack Miller would like it, too.
I am only asking you to listen.