Volume 12, Issue 20 ~ May 13-19, 2004
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Schaefer’s Big Mac Attack; Ehrlich’s Red Meat
Not just the timing was unfortunate when Maryland’s two most recognizable politicians, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Gov. Robert Ehrlich, carried on last week about culture and immigration.

The 82-year-old Schaefer’s remarks were slightly more forgivable given his irascibility. But Ehrlich’s assertion later that multiculturalism was “bunk” and “crap” was tone deaf to the times and contrary to his Republican Party’s drive to expand its base.

Some background: After a trip to a McDonald’s, Schaefer complained about not being able to understand a worker taking his order. (Could junk food be the cause of Schaefer’s perpetual grumpiness?)

“This is the United States. I think they ought to adjust to us,” Schaefer proclaimed, impromptu, at the meeting of the Board of Public works. Apparently he meant that newly arrived workers should spruce up their English. Pronto!

Ehrlich, asked about the episode on talk radio a day later, said he agreed with Schaefer’s comments and poured some gas of his own on the flickering flame. “Once you get into this multicultural crap, this bunk, you run into a problem … Should we encourage young folks here to be assimilated, to learn the culture and values? Of course,” he said.

Multiculturalism is one of those muddled terms that means different things to different people. To most folks not caught up in polemics, it suggests little more than staying sensitive toward racial minorities and immigrants. But to many in the hard-right, the word conjures up scary thoughts about attacks on heritage by people who are, well, not like you and me.

We understand that Ehrlich wants to remain on the good side of Schaefer, a Republicrat by any other name. Ask ex-Gov. Parris Glendening what happens when you land on the old fella’s bad side. (Think killer bees.)

We also know how one can get carried away in the midst of one’s like-minded pals, which can happen in the conservative humidor of talk radio, the governor’s preferred medium.

But in times like this, it might be better to use a bit of tact when referring to other cultures. We’re referring here to the debacle in Iraq, which is rapidly persuading the world (unjustly) that America’s is an insensitive — indeed cruel — culture.

We would hope that however Ehrlich looks at the world, and we believe it’s with charity, that he would take every opportunity to preach the gospel of tolerance rather than flipping red meat to his political base. And recommend that his two sons take Spanish in school.

We know that Schaefer and Ehrlich come from special families. But we doubt whether their ancestors landed here von Deutschland speaking English without an accent.

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Last updated May 13, 2004 @ 1:30am.