Why do you keep voting for boneheads like these?

September 25, 1994|By ROGER SIMON

WASHINGTON -- I hear that the public has become depressed, cynical and deeply distrustful when it comes to their elected officials.

And the reason is plain: It is we, the media.

By concentrating only on the negative, we have made you bitter and resentful.

Well, maybe. But let me suggest another culprit: You.

Yes, you, the great American public.

You keep doing bonehead things.

How else can you explain the recent primary victory of Marion Barry in Washington and the success of Ollie North in Virginia?

During Barry's trial, witness after witness, some of whom were longtime friends of Barry's, testified that Barry had used cocaine, marijuana and opium on hundreds of occasions over a period of years.

Barry, a three-term mayor, stood charged with 14 counts of drug use and perjury. But he remained unconcerned throughout his trial.

"I think," he said, "the prosecutors know that in this town all it takes is one juror saying, 'I'm not going to convict Marion Barry. I don't care what you say.' "

And, as it turned out, Marion Barry knew his town.

A jury convicted Barry of only one misdemeanor, acquitted him of another and deadlocked on 12 more charges.

The trial judge was outraged and later said that four of the jurors "obviously did not tell the truth" when asked if they could decide the case impartially.

Which is exactly what Barry had predicted.

Barry asked for a sentence of public service, but the judge gave him six months in prison. When Barry was released, he moved from an upscale section of Washington to the poorest and most crime-ridden.

And his message was that he now understood the troubled people of Washington, because he had been troubled himself.

But he had also been redeemed. He had been punished for his sins, and now he was forgiven.

And now he deserved a reward. He deserved to be re-elected mayor.

Though some pointed out that God had forgiven Adam and Eve, yet never let them back in the Garden of Eden, the public wanted Barry back.

Though it is difficult to see why.

Because, even if you overlook his drug use, Barry had been a lousy mayor, plunging the city into debt and bloating its public payroll.

At least the people of Chicago could argue that though Rep. Dan Rostenkowski is accused of being a crook, at least he gets a lot of federal pork for Chicago and so deserves re-election on utilitarian grounds.

But in Washington, Barry's main achievement was hiring his friends and rewarding his political cronies.

Yet the public wants him back.

Then we have Ollie North, America's sweetheart.

Cinched into his uniform for congressional hearings into the Iran-contra affair, seven rows of ribbons and medals on his chest, he was the perfect resolute warrior defending his president and his cause.

And if he lied to Congress, so what?

And if he shredded documents rather than let them reach the hands of the Justice Department, who cared?

And if he accepted illegal gratuities to the tune of $13,800, what's that to you, pal?

L He was serving his country! We know that because he said so!

And the public bought it. There was even a name for it: Ollie-mania.

Now, with his conviction overturned not because he is innocent, but because a judge found his grant of immunity to testify before Congress had contaminated his trial, Ollie now leads in the polls to become a U.S. senator from Virginia.

And if elected, he will join the body he lied to and holds in contempt.

Who is to blame for all this?

The media?

You think Barry and North got good media? Go ask them.

They will tell you the media have done nothing but dig up their dirty pasts and parade them before the public.

But the public does not seem to care.

Public service, as someone recently said, is now the latest form of work release.

I guess the public thinks one more liar and one more crook in public office is not going to make a difference.

Which is the worst part of all this:

The public is making the media deeply cynical.

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