Barry's scandals continue to unfold

December 02, 1997|By Carl T. Rowan

WASHINGTON -- Well, you can add another outrageous scandal to the long list of humiliations that have marked Marion Barry's tenure as mayor of this city.

Police Chief Larry D. Soulsby resigned a week ago, hours before his roommate, police Lt. Jeff Stowe, was charged with embezzling $46,767 from three police department cash funds that he managed, and of trying to extort $10,000 from a married man whom Mr. Stowe had seen leaving a nightclub for homosexuals.

Under fire

Mr. Soulsby had been under fire for months from citizens who accused him of presiding over a force that is incompetent, corrupt and inclined to hide the misdeeds of Mr. Barry, who named Mr. Soulsby as chief 28 months ago.

The police department's homicide record is so bad that wags here say this is the city of perfect crimes. Others say the ultimate crime is the bloated bureaucracy that makes it difficult to get a driver's license, a building permit or just about any other service.

Speaking of crime, several Barry aides have gone to prison, and the mayor himself has done time for a drug-related crime. Still, Mr. Barry won a new term as mayor after leaving prison.

Funds allocated for summer jobs for the city's youth and other programs become slush funds for Barry parties. Police files on a Barry aide suspected of murder just disappear. But not only does Mr. Barry avoid new indictments; city leaders shudder in fear that Mr. Barry will be re-elected.

The Congress and other forces here have rendered Mr. Barry next to powerless, superimposing over him a control board. Still, respected political observers say that despite this humiliation they expect Mr. Barry to run again and probably win.

How can this be? Racial polarization!

Race card

Marion Barry is a skilled demagogue who plays the race card as shrewdly as Southern racists did in the '40s and '50s. If he has a white opponent, he brands him or her as the ''front'' person for those who wish to wipe out black power in Washington and return this city to absolute ''plantation'' status. If Mr. Barry has an honest, dignified black foe, he portrays him or her as the ''stooge'' of rich, powerful whites.

So deep is racial polarization here and across America, so great the rage within many African-Americans, that enough blacks swallow Mr. Barry's demagoguery to the point of forgiving him his failures and transgressions and re-electing him.

That sad reality ought to be enough to inspire us to curb the injustices and heal racial wounds so that polarization does not produce the kind of governmental disaster that we Washingtonians have endured for so long.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 12/02/97

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