WASHINGTON – Former Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat not known for partisan politics, said Thursday he supports Republican Bob Dole’s bid for president.
“I just don’t think the president is up to the job,” Schaefer said of President Clinton. “He doesn’t follow through with his plans. He’s played politics all along.”
Schaefer, 74, of Baltimore, said in a telephone interview Clinton is “clever enough … a good-looking guy” who can “convince you of anything.”
But, he said, “a man with no military experience has no business committing American troops all over the world.”
He said Clinton served Arkansas well, but has been unable to replicate his success as president.
“He was okay as governor, but I don’t like his politics,” Schaefer said.
The former governor said he favored the Senate majority leader’s “extensive record” of public service. Dole, 72, of Kansas, has served for decades in Congress and lost use of an arm in combat in Italy in World War II.
Rich Parsons, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said he isn’t worried about Schaefer’s comments.
“I don’t expect his endorsement this year to have any more impact than it did with George Bush in 1992,” Parsons said.
Schaefer endorsed President Bush for re-election in 1992, yet Maryland voters went overwhelmingly for Clinton.
Joyce Lyons Terhes, chairwoman of the Maryland Republican Party, said she was not surprised by Schaefer’s choice.
“He never liked Clinton,” Terhes said. “This is a free country. He can do what he wants.”
Schaefer did actually have kind words for Clinton at a pre- inaugural lunch. He said he would be one of Clinton’s “strongest supporters.”
But he said in Thursday’s interview, “I must have been out to lunch that day.”
Tony Caligiuri, executive director of Dole’s campaign in Maryland, welcomed the endorsement. He said “every prominent Democrat who supports Dole in the general election helps the Dole candidacy.”
He added Maryland would “definitely be fertile ground for the Dole campaign.” Dole won 53 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary in Maryland.
Schaefer said he sees nothing odd about crossing party lines with his endorsement.
“I think the national good is above being a hard-line Democrat or a hard-line Republican,” Schaefer said. “I look and see who can do good for the country.”
He added, “I don’t like to vote partywise.”
It is not the first time Schaefer has strayed from the party line.
In 1984, he passed up the Democratic National Convention, choosing instead to go to San Diego, where the Republicans convened.
He encouraged former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, a Baltimore County Republican, to run for governor in 1994.
Schaefer won’t be going back to San Diego this August for the Republican National Convention. “I don’t think I want to watch Clinton win by acclamation,” he said. “The only convention I’m going to this summer is the volunteer firemen’s convention in Ocean City.” -30-