How the telephone calls roll in from people who want to separate "sympathy" from reality, "emotion" from the truth in the tragic case of Mayor Marion Barry. I answer as honestly and factually as I know how.
Is Barry the victim of Reagan-Bush white racists to drive a black man out of power?
No. And it would be a callous, destructive deception of millions of black children across America for any black leader to make such a claim. Barry's wife, friends, ministers, Cabinet officers, police security detail and others have known for years that Barry had a problem of drug and alcohol abuse. After several Houdini escapes by Barry, his denials of drug use were proven to be lies when a longtime woman friend lured him into an FBI trap. Barry destroyed Barry.
Barry has confessed to "the deepest human failures" and said he will try to "find a way to heal my body, soul and mind." Will this bring him enough sympathy and support to allow him to stay in office and run for another term?
Barry's televised church confessional was vague. He did not admit to a cocaine habit, or to addiction to other illicit drugs. Such a confession would have made it impossible for him to plead "not guilty" to buying and using crack at the time he was arrested. And admission to using these drugs for years would have given the U.S. attorney an open-and-shut reason to prosecute him for perjury and conspiracy in connection with his grand jury denials that he had ever used illegal dope.
But Barry's going into treatment for some illness that he would not describe for legal reasons. What are the chances that he will spend a few weeks in a substance-abuse program and emerge saying, "I'm cured! I take back control of the nation's capital. I will run for four more years!"?
Barry's church "confessional" probably was based partly on foolish hopes that such a scenario might unfold. But the fact is that Barry was taking the first step toward gaining public sympathy that would force the U.S. attorney to cut a deal that would allow Barry to escape imprisonment.
That sensational FBI "misdemeanor" sting in the Vista International hotel here was just a tiny fracas in the war that U.S. Attorney Jay Stephens began months ago against corruption in this community. Barry faces not only felony charges regarding drug matters, but he knows that Stephens is coiled to strike at some well-known figures in this town with charges that they conspired in myriad corrupt actions to deliver contracts, fix compensation, accept kickbacks and otherwise defraud the citizens of the District of Columbia of their money.
Several Americans in non-political jobs have overcome drug addictions and gone on to perform well in their jobs. But any attempt by Barry to crawl back into power in D.C. would provoke the felony indictments that he fears above all else.
But won't the result of crushing Barry mean the end of home rule, black power and all hopes of statehood for D.C.?
No. Some craven politicians such as Stan Parris of Virginia will use the Barry case as an excuse for pushing the District of Columbia back into colonization where even excessive taxation produces no representation in Congress, especially in the fuddy-duddy, white Ol' Boy Senate.
But a new light would be cast upon this great city and its future, embracing statehood or whatever, if a Jesse Jackson or someone of equal ability (many black men and women have that ability) would step forward and say, "I will turn the bloodshed and the shambles into something of beauty."
"So you don't despair?" a caller asks.
In the wake of our power-and-drugs nightmare, I reply, "Just watch this city blossom in pride and prosperity."