Politics On The Fly

Marion Barry

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Jeff Smith of Politico is out with a great piece on former Washington D.C mayor Marion Barry, who passed away over the weekend.

Barry, who died Sunday at age 78, showed that scandal is not always a death knell. He returned from prison to win a fourth term as mayor and several subsequent terms on the D.C. Council. A complex mix of forces—the nature of the scandal, the electoral landscape and both the candidate’s response and his or her personal qualities—can explain the success, or failure, of a modern comeback attempt. In Barry’s case, these forces were augmented by his acute sense of how voters felt about his prosecution and the respect he had earned after a long history of community service. There is a long line of scandals in American history, but there was something unique about Barry: Unlike Hart and Bill Clinton, he embraced, rather than hid or repressed, his sinning side. And, for the most part, it worked.

Barry contributed perhaps the most memorable quote to the political scandal lexicon when he realized that his ex-girlfriend had videotaped him smoking crack cocaine: “I’ll be goddamned,” he muttered. “Bitch set me up.” A $2 million FBI sting operation caught the married Barry smoking crack with the woman.

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