Charles in Charge of State?

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Byline: Tom Knott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Charles Barkley is the politically incorrect quipster with a gubernatorial itch.

He has been on both sides of the political aisle, although now he fancies himself to be a blue-state type with a populist's pitch.

He is not the first to take up the cause of the little people and bemoan the dysfunctional public school system of a particular locale, in this case Alabama.

His concern is well-founded, if not well-worn. He offers no genuine reform measures at this time, just tough words, which are not intended to inspire confidence.

His new party affiliation could neutralize his name recognition if anyone bothers to connect the dots. His party, after all, already presides over

] many of the under performing public school systems in urban America.

"I was a Republican until they lost their minds," Barkley said recently.

He is entitled to a scorched-earth opinion or three, usually expressed as an NBA analyst on TNT.

He has become something of a cult hero in that forum, along with Ernie Johnson and Kenny "The Jet" Smith. The trio's discourse is often entertaining, with Barkley in charge of provoking the masses.

Barkley can be funny and jarring all at the same time. He mixes a plain-spoken frankness with a seething clarity that spares few of his NBA brethren. His style works in the superlative-driven world of sports, in which an athlete can be deemed great or lousy in the span of a breath.

His style would be out of bounds in the world of state budgets, hardly conducive to consensus building. His political opponents are not apt to grant him the free pass he is afforded in the NBA subculture, which is: That's Charles being Charles.

We already have seen Barkley's ilk in a governor's mansion, with modest effect.

Jesse Ventura, the former professional wrestler, was swept into office in Minnesota partly because of his caustic manner. His shoot-from-the-lip manner also led to his ouster.

Barkley's empathy is a long way from being tested, if ever. …