It was, in the political vernacular, the classic dog and pony show.
Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, who just happens to have an election coming up in three weeks, met here with Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb to discuss how the two states plan to deal with the problems of the Chesapeake Bay. The two Democrats met for less than an hour and then emerged to tell an eager press corps that they had agreed to continue the fight to save the environmentally imperiled bay.
Hughes and Robb insisted the meeting was not politically motivated, even though Robb has been campaigning around the country for various Democrats to increase his national visibility. He left from here to fly to Massachusetts on a campaign trip.
Ostensibly, the purpose of this morning's meeting in Hughes' office was for the two men to be briefed by EPA officials on a just-concluded six-year study of the bay and its problems. Next month, Hughes and Robb will meet with Pennsylvania Gov. Richard Thornburgh to plan a gubernatorial summit for next fall. By then, the EPA should be finished with the next phase of the study, which involves translating a 600-page report into recommendations on ways to reverse pollution problems identified in the report.
That next phase will cost about $1.25 million. Congress already has agreed to put about $900,000 into EPA's budget for next year. Maryland is expected to come up with about $250,000 and Virginia the remaining $100,000, according to Hughes staffers.
"We're not in a position now to determine what it is that needs to be done," said Robb, smiling into the cameras. "But the cooperation is there."
"We're going to save the bay, in case anybody wants to know," added Hughes in one of his more specific moments.
Questions for the two men were cut off quickly because Robb had to be driven to Baltimore-Washington International Airport to catch his plane to Massachusetts. But when the TV reporters approached, Robb found time for a couple of questions.
The TV spots done, Robb headed for the exit. His vigorous state police escorts made sure the way was clear, nearly knocking over a Baltimore reporter as they left.
"Pretty good show, huh?" said a Hughes staffer after the governors had departed.
All it lacked was a dog and a pony.