SO MARYLAND Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. says he'll "take down" any Democrats in the state legislature who would lift an eyebrow at his practice of firing state bureaucrats and replacing them with Republican loyalists. The governor is apparently unable to confine his remarks to the merits of his case for firing state workers (he's within his rights, legally) or the flaws in the Democrats' position (plenty of them have had relatives on the state payroll). No, cool-headed argumentation will not slake this governor's thirst for partisan combat. Being a tough guy, he prefers threats.

All right, fine. But why this inelegant "taking down" of Democrats who might cross him? After all, Mr. Ehrlich is the governor; he shouldn't be trifled with. More chillingly, he might threaten to "take them out." He could suggest that Democratic critics might simply "disappear," or, to impart a Latin American frisson, "be disappeared." He could evoke Hollywood by warning that the Democrats might "sleep with the fishes"; or, in a similar vein, that they'd be "terminated with extreme prejudice." Or Mr. Ehrlich could go for broke and divulge his plans to "rip their lungs out."

Watching the governor duke it out with Democrats, it's tempting to sit back and murmur appreciatively, "Bring it on." If only the welfare of Maryland, and that vast majority of its citizens who don't live for partisan politics, were not at issue, we'd be tempted to thank the governor for lively, if crude, summer entertainment.