Return to Council Not Good for Barry or Public

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 8, 2004 | Go to article overview

Return to Council Not Good for Barry or Public


Byline: Adrienne T. Washington, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Yes, some still reverently call him "Tha May-ah." There's no question that the "People's Prodigal Prince" parts the waters east of the Anacostia River. There's also no doubt that former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry Jr. will rise like Lazarus from the grave in what is undeniably Barryland.

But for whom will "hizzoner" 's proposed political rebirth sound a death knell? Most likely him.

About a year ago, I spent several hours with Mr. Barry in the intensive care unit of Howard University Hospital when he thought he was about to meet his Maker.

Watching him last summer trying to talk and cough through an oxygen mask, I realized that the larger-than-life figure whom I had covered and often chided for decades suddenly appeared all too vulnerable.

"I was scared to death because I thought I was going to die," he said while he was being treated for pneumonia, among other diseases. "Do you know what it's like not to be able to breathe?"

Yes, but we all know that the District's "mayor for life" would sooner choke to death than live without the limelight. All it appears he needs is an overdose of attention to survive. Even at death's door in the No. 1 penthouse hospital suite, Mr. Barry was apparently contemplating a comeback.

When I asked about his plans, he responded: "I'm looking for a house in Ward 8, so I can keep my options open. I love Ward 8."

Ward 8 is undeniably Barryland, but "I hope those options don't include running for office," I said.

"Why not?" he said, bristling.

"You've got to be kidding. Look at you," I said. "You don't need it, and we don't need it either."

I learned a long time ago never to count "M.B.," as his closest confidants call him, down and out.

"Wait till they see this 175-pound [expletive deleted] come back," he said.

Now 68, Mr. Barry will announce within the next two weeks whether he will seek election to the Ward 8 D.C. Council seat now held by Sandy Allen, his political protege. Trust me, judging from the telephone conversation I had with him last week, it will take another Vista International Hotel drug sting or another ICU-imposed stay to keep him from running.

No one - not a single one of his trusted friends, former wives, physicians or foes - has been able to convince Mr. Barry otherwise.

However, it's not a matter of whether he can win but whether he should run.

A Barry campaign and victory will be unhealthy not only for the District but even more so for Mr. Barry. As much as he puts a pleasant spin on it, Mr. Barry is really in no shape to take on the task. He needs to pay full time and attention to his failing health.

As much as his voice is lacking in city politics today, he should not pick up the flickering flame himself but pass the torch to someone younger, fresher and healthier to revive his power-to-the-people mission. …

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