The Washington Post just discovered that D.C. Councilman Marion Barry is unethical, and boy, is it steamed!
Well, that’s not quite fair. The Post editors authored an editorial about Barry’s latest example of his complete rejection of ethical principles other than his guiding star, which is “If it’s good for Marion Barry, it’s good for everyone else.” Barry recently published a self-congratulatory, delusional autobiography (I nearly wrote about it, but I was afraid doing so would make me nauseous), “Mayor for Life,” and right in the acknowledgments, he announces that one of his council aides, LaToya Foster, spent “nights, weekends, and many long hours of assistance” working on book at taxpayer expense. Using D.C. government employees as his personal staff was standard operating procedure for Barry during his various pre- and post-crack terms as mayor, so there is little chance that he played it straight this time. No chance, really. A Washington City Paper investigation of calendar entries and emails showed that Foster’s work on Barry’s book “stretched far beyond her off-hours and into the D.C. Council workday, an arrangement that appears to violate D.C. Council ethics rules.”
The Post should stop editorializing about Barry’s ethics and instead focus attention where it might do some good: the D.C. voters and citizens he has thoroughly exploited and corrupted. Barry is a prime example of what I have dubbed The Julie Principle, evoking the famous lyrics of Julie’s lament in “Show Boat,” “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly…” If Oscar Hammerstein was writing those lyrics today about Barry, the song, sung by voters of D.C.’s Ward 8, would go,
Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly”
Marion Barry will cheat, steal and lie..
Can’t help loving that man of mine.
The point is that D.C. Barry-worshipers can help it,must help it, and the Post should make it crystal clear why it is vital that they do help it. Barry will never change, because he a champion of unethical, the ends justifies the means racial politics and he has rationalized wrong-doing his entire life. His followers, enablers and supporters, however, corrupt their children, the city and its culture by refusing to reject the values, or lack of them, that his continuing success in politics promotes. The Washington Post will never change Barry, nor will any sanctions or ethics prosecutions be anything but temporary setbacks for him. Seldom has the old saw about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over again hoping that the results will be different been more appropriate. The Post inveighs,
“Mr. Barry has long considered himself immune to the rules that guide the actions of public officials — as his history of smoking crack cocaine, not filing taxes, steering city contracts to an ex-girlfriend and taking money from a city contractor, among other offenses, richly shows. Over the weekend, Mr. Barry was hospitalized after a car crash he reportedly caused by driving the wrong way on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. But it’s important he be held accountable in the new ethics case, as in the others.“
Nah, at this point, it’s not that important. It would be nice, but it’s not that important. What is important is that the Post, and everybody else, clearly explain what happens to a city and its culture when it embraces a man like Marion Barry as a hero, and never lets go. We will never change Marion Barry, anymore than poor, doomed Julie could change the cur she was in love with. We have all have an obligation, however, to try to change the culture that allows these incorrigible and unethical leaders to keep doing us harm.