By Len Lazarick
When the secretary of the Senate told me in January that ex-senator P.J. Hogan was trying to get former President Bill Clinton to be the speaker for the annual dinner of Senates Past, we both agreed that was highly unlikely.
But lo and behold, the surprise guest keynote speaker for the annual reunion of former senators Thursday night was none other than the 42nd president of the United States.
“I would have walked here from New York” to honor Senate President Mike Miller, Clinton told the overflow crowd in a building named for the longest serving Senate president in Maryland and U.S. history.
Clinton first met Miller in Arkansas in 1987 when he was governor. Miller has been a supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton ever since.
Miller is battling prostate cancer with chemotherapy that is causing him to lose his mane of white hair and puff up his face. The Senates Past this year — in contrast to some less attended events in the recent past — was packed with current senators in a bipartisan love fest for Miller.
They included U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a former Senate president who has been a Democratic political ally of Miller since 1970 when Miller first ran for the House of Delegates. Hoyer’s position grants him a government SUV and a protection detail of U.S. Capitol Police, and he brought with him two other former Maryland senators, Reps. Andy Harris of Maryland and Alex Mooney of West Virginia, two of the most conservative Republicans in the House that were the bane of Miller when they served in Annapolis.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan thanked Clinton for coming, and declared his deep “respect and love” for Miller, who he has known since he was a child. Hogan, a cancer survivor himself, said “there is no quit in this guy.”
“God bless Mike Miller and each of you,” Hogan said.
Earlier on Thursday, Miller had announced that the Senate would meet on Tuesday afternoon instead of the morning so he could have another chemotherapy session that day and come back and preside as he’s done now for 33 years.
The dinner in the Miller building was one of the best protected venues in Maryland Thursday. There was the Secret Service detail for Clinton, the Capitol police for Hoyer, state troopers for Hogan and the senators, and Maryland Capitol Police who guard the buildings in the State House complex.