Does Marion Barry Belong on a National Stage?

Earlier this year, Democrats in the District of Columbia elected delegates to the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Among the 14 they chose was Marion Barry.

Before the vote, I wrote a column for the Georgetown Dish in which I warned Democrats not to support Barry. His conduct as a delegate at the 2008 convention in Denver was shameful and resulted in a now-infamous Washington City Paper cover.

In the column I noted that Barry is “a walking public relations disaster” and the District “can do better than to be represented by him on the national stage.”

It wasn't difficult to see trouble was brewing.

During a January 2012 interview Barry claimed to have "more white support than people say I do.”

He went on to add, "That's what frustrates some of these white people out here. They get frustrated, all worked up. They can't do a damn thing to me or about me. Isn't that funny?”

A few weeks later, Barry complained publicly about an “all-white firm” that was selected to provide architectural services for a high school redesign in his ward. So it was no surprise when a mere month after his election as a Democratic delegate, Barry would prove once again that he is a public relations disaster waiting to happen.

Last week, while delivering a speech after winning the Democratic Primary for Ward 8 on the D.C. Council, Barry said, “We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops. They ought to go. I’m going to say that right now. But we need African-American businesspeople to be able to take their places, too."

Leaders from the District and around the region decried the remarks.

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And that is the extent of the consequences Barry is likely to face. Just another few days in the spotlight for the mayor-for-life.

But there should be consequences.

And there can be.

District and national Democratic leaders should call for Barry to forfeit his seat as a Convention delegate.

Party leaders might be reluctant to cause a stir today -- messing with Barry is like kicking a beehive -- but they should not ignore the old adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

In the Dish, I cautioned: “In the summer of 2008 much of the nation and most of the press corps were going gaga over Barack Obama. The news that came out Denver was all about Obama. This year, reporters may be looking for a sideshow [... D]o not send Barry to the convention.”

In other words, Democrats can deal with the somewhat awkward situation of having to push Barry aside now, or risk a colossal embarrassment on the national stage just two months before Election Day.

In winning his spot as a delegate, Barry received 122 votes. I am sure his supporters, many of whom are likely to be voting for Obama in November, will understand why he has to go.

Chuck Thies is a political analyst and consultant.  His columns appear every Tuesday and Thursday on First Read DMV. He co-hosts "DC Politics" on WPFW, 89.3 FM. Since 1991, Chuck has lived in either D.C., Maryland or Virginia. Email your tips and complaints to or tweet at @chuckthies.

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