Paul Jacob

William Donald Schaefer has been a politician for the last 51 years — a member of the Baltimore city council, mayor for 16 years, governor of Maryland for eight years and now State Comptroller . . . and he's running for re-election.

To those of us who hold the Power Corrupts thesis, we expect a politician, the longer lingering in office, to become more arrogant and removed from normal standards of decency. Meet Politician Schaefer. Exhibit A.

At the February 15th meeting of the Maryland Public Works Board, Schaefer had a little run-in with a 24-year-old woman, employed by the governor's office. As part of her job she delivered a mug of tea to the powerful state comptroller. He needed that nourishment and pampering to conduct the people's business.

Schaefer ogled the woman as she walked away. Then, from across the room, he motioned for her to return to him. When the young woman re-approached him, Schaefer said, "Walk again." According to observers, the woman then left the room, somewhat flustered, with Schaefer ogling up another storm.

This incident was really a very funny joke according to Schaefer and his cronies. They wonder (out loud) why some of us just don't get it.

When reporters asked Schaefer to account for his behavior, he exploded by cursing, "That's so [expletive deleted] dumb I can't believe it." He claimed that the woman should have been "happy that I observed her going out the door. . . . A little girl walks out, and I make a joke out of it. . . . The one who is offended is me."

Schaefer and his team of public servants had a multitude of defenses. There was the "The day I don't look at pretty girls, I die" defense. And to Louise Hayman, a longtime aide to Schaefer, the problem was clearly this 24-year old woman with the nerve to be offended. "I think she overreacted, frankly," stated Hayman.

Haymen went on to opine, "I guess she was surprised by it." (Shaefer's employees have grown used to it?) And Haymen offered, "There's a generational issue here."

Schaefer is 84 years old — a decade older than my father, but let's call them the same generation. A generation that deserves an apology. No decent person treats another person this way. Not today, and not 20 years ago or a century ago, either. Not ever.

Rest assured, Hayman was quick to emphasize that this particular lech has a well-established record of promoting women in the work place. She also explained that those who have worked for him do not feel in any way offended by his habit of referring to accomplished women as "little girls." (Adjust your score accordingly.)

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.