Let me tell you something. The state of the state of Maryland -- what we've done together and what we're going to do together in this session -- is what Irving Berlin had in mind when wrote 'God Bless America,' and what Jackie Gleason means when he says, 'How sweet it is.' So for the next few minutes, close your eyes to some of the more recent signs of the times -- signs that read, 'We're Going to Get You Harry' -- and look upon me not as 'Harried Harry,' but as the Sunshine Kid.
WERE IT NOT for the speaker and the occasion, you could easily conclude that the lines above came out of some amateur comedian's arsenal of bombs in a rundown night club just 12 short miles off the Garden State Parkway. But this was the governor of Maryland, Harry Hughes, delivering his state of the state address to the generally assembled members in Annapolis; and if the legislative laugh-meter was accurate, it was no knee-slapper of a show. Whatever possessed the governor to try out this routine in the statehouse instead of on the campaign circuit wasn't clear -- but then neither was the message he sought to convey by not mentioning the more-than- slight matter of a savings and loan crisis that hovers over everything in Annapolis these days.
Get the hook. As one reviewer -- Sen. Howard A. Denis, Republican of Montgomery County -- put it, the absence of any mention of the S&L issue gave an "Alice-in-Wonderland quality to the speech. It's fine to lift people's morale, but the truth is that Maryland is still in one hell of a jam." So, too, is Gov. Hughes, whose eye is on a U.S. Senate seat but who cannot seem to shake the fact that the S&L troubles happened on his watch -- and won't go away.
What's more, the legislative sniping isn't likely to subside. Many of the lawmakers were annoyed enough by the governor's failure to come up earlier with a plan to address the S&L crisis. They weren't thrilled, either, when Gov. Hughes then took to television for what was billed as an important appearance but that still did not reveal details of the governor's plan. Now, having listened to the upbeat report of a lame-duck "Sunshine Kid," many of the legislators were taken aback by the tone of the address and its campaign-speech emphasis on programs Mr. Hughes has supported during his years in office.
Political sunshine has its place, but right now the legislators in Annapolis are burned.