By: Perry Bacon Jr.; Marion Barry
The former Washington mayor, who left office in disgrace and spent six months in jail after being caught on video smoking crack, is back. The newly elected city councilman boycotted last week's Inaugural because the Federal Government made the city of Washington pay part of the security costs. Earlier, TIME's Perry Bacon Jr. spoke with Marion Barry about his improbable comeback.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO GET BACK INTO POLITICS? I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't take seeing the hopelessness and the frustrations and the kids being miseducated and not doing something about it. I prayed on it, talked to a couple of people about it and decided to run. I could win politically because I know how strong my base is out here.
SHOULD RESIDENTS WORRY ABOUT THE DRUG PROBLEMS THAT DROVE YOU FROM OFFICE IN 1990? They know my recovery is my recovery. But it's been 14 years. I've been on city council before and been mayor since then and performed well in both jobs.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR HEALTH PROBLEMS? YOU HAVE HAD HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, DIABETES, PROSTATE CANCER AND ANEMIA. I don't have any health problems. I have health issues. My diabetes and high blood pressure are under better control than they've ever been. I take my medication on time, watch my diet, eat sugar and sweets in moderation. I'm not going to be as active as I was. I'm 68 years old. I can't run as fast as I used to run, but my mind is as good as it's ever been.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT'S REQUIRING YOUR CITY TO USE SOME OF ITS HOMELAND-SECURITY FUNDS TO PAY FOR THE INAUGURATION SECURITY? It's outrageous. It's ridiculous. The Federal Government has picked up the tab every other year. Why should the taxpayers of D.C. pay? The Bush Republicans are terrible.
ARE YOU HAPPY THAT MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL IS COMING TO WASHINGTON? Yeah, I'm happy, but I'm not happy that the public is going to have to finance it. This is the biggest stickup since Jesse James and the Great Train Robbery. We've been bamboozled. It's not fair to ask the taxpayers to subsidize billionaires. Why should we do that, with the housing needs here? Some of our schools are falling down.
WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN YOU WON THE ELECTION? Without being egotistical, I knew I was going to win. I'm one of the best political strategists in the country. God blessed me. I wasn't surprised. I knew I was going to win.
ANY CHANCE YOU MIGHT RUN FOR MAYOR AGAIN? I'm not even thinking about it. I'm thinking about Ward 8 right now. I'm not interested in being mayor. I like what I'm doing.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT PEOPLE, MANY OF THEM NEW RESIDENTS OF THE CITY, WHO KNOW YOU BEST FROM THE VIDEOTAPE OF YOUR SMOKING CRACK AND YOUR REACTION--"BITCH SET ME UP"? I don't try to do anything about that. You can't get everybody to like you, but I've got a lot of support in this town. People are trying to marginalize me. I won't be marginalized, and I won't be demonized. God gave me a gift to inspire people. It's not how many times you get knocked on your butt, but do you get up? I got up 14 years ago.
I HAVE TO ASK THIS: DO YOU USE DRUGS ANYMORE, OR ARE YOU IN A DRUG-REHAB PROGRAM? My recovery is my recovery. You can ask me that again, but that's what I'm going to say.
WHAT DO YOU THINK NOW ABOUT THAT PART OF YOUR LIFE? It was a snapshot. It wasn't the whole picture. I honestly wouldn't wish this on me or anybody else. But that's in the past, and I've asked God for forgiveness. You hardly hear anything about Bill Clinton or Robert Downey Jr. There's racism in the downfallen community. If you're white, people forget about it in a year. Now, 14 years later, you find the Today show showing the clip. It's all right, but it's racism. *
"It's not how many times you get knocked on your butt, but do you get up?"