From the Baltimore Sun
No regrets, no excuses
William Donald Schaefer leaves after a half-century of public service
with a message to friends and foes
By Jennifer Skalka
January 9, 2007
William Donald Schaefer says he is not sorry.
Not for saying one of his opponents dressed like Mother Hubbard. Not
for gawking at a young woman's backside after telling her to "walk
again" while the cameras rolled during a public meeting.
Two weeks before he leaves office at the end of a 50-year public career
- done in, even his supporters say, by his own words and deeds - the
former governor and Baltimore mayor is showing no contrition.
During an hourlong interview yesterday in his Annapolis office, not a
tear gathered in the corner of an icy blue eye. Not a sentence began
with "If I had it to do over ... "
"I do not feel that I owe an apology to anyone," said Schaefer, who was
defeated in the September primary for comptroller.
The extent of Schaefer's confessions of sentiment ---- in an interview
that was otherwise dedicated to blasting The Sun's coverage of him -
were reserved for two men: the governor who leaves office with him this
month; and Schaefer's replacement.
For one, he offered kindness. The other, spite.
Schaefer, an 85-year-old lifelong Democrat, had nothing but praise for
outgoing Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. He called Ehrlich honest
and said he "wasn't looking for another job."
"Good family," he said of the Ehrlichs. "No scandal."
And then Schaefer got frank. About that endorsement of a statewide
Democratic ticket including Martin O'Malley, a longtime foe whose name
he was reluctant to even mention during the campaign?
"I was for Ehrlich," he said.
As for Montgomery County Del. Peter Franchot, who defeated Schaefer in
the three-way Democratic primary and went on to win the general
election, Schaefer conceded that he had underestimated his rival.
Franchot, he said, was wise to target Montgomery and Prince George's
counties, the two jurisdictions with the most Democratic voters.
But Schaefer added that he loathed losing to Franchot, who he said had
"no record at all."
"It was my time to lose," Schaefer said. "When I first ran for office,
I lost. So I lost coming in, I lose going out. That is sad. ... If
there had been somebody really spectacular running, that would have
been all right."
Schaefer took some, albeit limited, responsibility for the defeat.
"I did not run as hard," he said. "I took for granted that a lot of
people knew me that did not know me."
Janet S. Owens, the former Anne Arundel County executive and third
contender in the Democratic comptroller contest, was the target of
Schaefer's Mother Hubbard comment. A remark that rankled women's
groups, it was one of several incidents in the past year that made
Schaefer the focus of negative local and national media attention.
He also told a young female aide to Ehrlich to "walk again" so he could
watch her leave. The clip was played repeatedly on CNN.
"Now can't you find something else besides my looking at a girl walk?"
Schaefer said yesterday when asked about the comment. "There's a war.
There's famine over the world. There's tremendous hurricanes. All these
things, and they pick up that I look behind a little girl that's
walking out of the office.
"Every guy in the world looks at the backside of a girl. Now put that
in there, quote [it]. Show me a man that doesn't look at a girl. I'd
even look at you. Put that in, too."
Schaefer said his record - helping revitalize the Inner Harbor, among
other accomplishments - should define his legacy. He hired more woman
than his predecessors, he said. He was "fair with the blacks."
"You've never heard anything bad about my office," he said. "I've been
in here almost 50 years, and nobody's ever accused me of any
impropriety. They've never accused me of stealing. My judgment may not
have always been right, my vision may not have always been right."
Schaefer sat in a white wing chair in a conference room in his
Annapolis office yesterday. Throughout the conversation, he grimaced
often, rolling his eyes and crossing his arms defiantly.
The comptroller complained that The Sun - his hometown paper - had long
wronged him. "Never had a fair shot with any reporter up there," he
He claimed that his words have often been taken out of context - even
though he artfully used the media to further his political goals for
years. Remember the dip in the seal pool at the National Aquarium in
Now in post-Watergate America, reporters are only after Pulitzer
Prizes, Schaefer said.
"The Sunpaper is so wonderful, they used to be No. 1 in the United
States," he said. "Now they're last."
Schaefer was not in the mood to talk about what is next for him. He
said another bid for public office, however, is unlikely.
"Never can tell. Most likely no, but you never can tell," he said.
Having championed the construction of two stadiums in Baltimore,
Schaefer perked up a bit when asked which team he would back in the
playoff game between the Indianapolis Colts (who fled Baltimore when he
was mayor) and the Baltimore Ravens.
"Everyone's for the Ravens," Schaefer said. "So I'm for the Ravens."
But after thinking a brief moment, he added a quiet word about the
Colts famed former quarterback.
"There'll never be a Johnny Unitas, never in my lifetime," he said.
Fitting words from a legend himself.
Copyright © 2007, The Baltimore Sun