At Long Last, The Peace Talks Annapolis Craves
Frankly, I didn't think President Bush had it in him. After half a century of anguish and division, there is finally hope, thanks to today's peace conference at the Naval Academy, that the seemingly eternal rift could be repaired, and residents of Annapolis and the Maritime Republic of Eastport might once again live in harmony.
Obviously, the president wouldn't call diplomats here from around the world just to take another stab at resolving the impossible stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians. There had to be a secret explanation for today's meeting. I'm pretty confident it's the Eastport situation.
Since 1951, when Annapolis annexed a stretch of waterfront across the drawbridge from its downtown, the city and Eastport have faced off over taxes, politics, culture and class. Sadly, the divide collapsed into open warfare in 1988, when Eastporters and their dogs rebelled against what they dubbed "snobbish Annapolis Proper." Muskets and cannons rang out in the afternoon sun, peppering the Annapolis side of the bridge with a heavy barrage of Brussels sprouts.
More recently, the battle has been played out across Spa Creek, over which Annapolitans and Eastporters conduct an annual Tug of War with a 1,700-foot-long rope.
Cynics will call the president's decision to reach out to the nations of the world for a peace conference on behalf of Annapolis a politically inspired gesture in the waning months of his administration. But I see no reason to scoff at the magnanimous move by a president who grew up sailing and understands Annapolis's appeal and the global urge for peace on the city's shores.
I have to admit, when I first heard about the peace talks, I thought they were an equally surprising and welcome effort by the president to cross party lines and seek a rapprochement between Maryland's Democratic titans of political prowess, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch. But then Busch caved to Gov. Martin O'Malley's pleas on legalizing slots gambling in the state, and now Maryland voters will decide next year whether to put 15,000 slot machines in five casinos. Peace talks hardly seem necessary at this point.
Alternatively, I figured, the Annapolis talks might be an effort to remove the tensions from the Army-Navy football tradition that is among the nation's greatest sports rivalries. There is a long history of presidents interceding in the Army-Navy affair. Grover Cleveland shut down the football contests, arguing that they had simply become too rough. Theodore Roosevelt put the rivalry back on the field, with a slew of restrictions aimed at preventing "any manifestations of an improper character." Dwight Eisenhower played in the game as a West Point cadet. Harry Truman and John Kennedy were big fans who made it their business to attend the game nearly every year.
President Bush is the only chief executive since Kennedy who has attended more than one Army-Navy game while in office, but it can't really be necessary to conduct international talks to seek an end to Navy's recent dominance (the Annapolitans have won eight of the last ten games and now lead the series, 51-49.)
But if these talks do turn out to be yet another effort to settle the Middle East situation, the president has picked the wrong Annapolis venue. The Naval Academy's food won't bring either side closer to a bargain. I suggest shuttle diplomacy, moving back and forth between the pastrami on rye at Chick and Ruth's deli on Main Street, and the fatteh at Lebanese Taverna at Annapolis Harbour Center.
When it turns out that the two sides still can't stand each other, at least it wouldn't be a total loss.
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