Monday, July 15, 2013

Identifying with the fallen

There is one thing for sure in American politics.  Some politicians can do anything and their supporters will turn a blind eye to the facts and truth and continue to support them. 

Marion Barry, Comeback King, on Spitzer, Weiner, and Being Truly ‘Humble’

A stint in jail, a crack-pipe video, and various other embarrassing incidents haven’t stopped the charming Marion Barry from being D.C.’s most popular politician. So what does he think of Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner? He tells Lloyd Grove.

When it comes to bouncing back from supposedly career-ending scandals, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer could take lessons from Marion Barry.

Marion Barry
Councilman Marion Barry in Washington, D.C., on March 2, 2010. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post, via Getty)

“I identify with the fallen, whoever they may be,” Barry told me during a weekend visit to New York. “Everybody, at some point in life, is gonna get knocked down.”

Washington, D.C.’s “Mayor for Life,” a title Barry relishes even though it was bestowed sarcastically by his critics, looks damned good for a man of 77 who is in recovery from drug abuse, survived prostate cancer, suffers from diabetes—which causes him to walk with some difficulty—and was forced to get a kidney transplant 4 1/2 years ago. “It transformed my life,” he said of the new kidney, which was donated by a lady friend. “It made me look young. My skin is smoother.”

Barry famously spent six months in federal prison 22 years ago on a cocaine-possession conviction. (He told me he has been “clean” for two decades, notwithstanding a dropped marijuana-possession charge, and he recently stopped sipping wine “because I don’t want to mess up my new kidney.”) The jail time came after an eight-week trial punctuated by an FBI sting video of Hizzoner sucking on a crack pipe at the urging of former girlfriend Rasheeda Moore, in a Washington hotel room equipped with hidden cameras, where he uttered those iconic words: “Bitch set me up.”

“I’m very quotable,” Barry said with a laugh.

Now he was in town to appear on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show. As we sat in his Manhattan hotel room sipping Coca-Colas (his regular, mine diet), he roared with laughter when I mentioned that his bitter aside about his ex-girlfriend ended up decorating thousands of T-shirts, at the time a popular fashion statement.

“What I regret is not printing the T-shirts,” he said with a chuckle. “That’s what I regret.”

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