For Poor Community, Scandal Is World Away
By Jon Jeter
"I just don't see why they're making such a big deal about it," Reed said this morning. "Around here, people [are] just trying to get by. Nobody has time to worry about who the president is sleeping with."
Reed, a 29-year-old drugstore cashier, is trying to raise her two sons in a community where mothers often lose their children to jail or early graves, and where drugs are more plentiful than milk. The salacious details of the president's affair are not an impeachable offense, she said, nor are they terribly important.
It is a scandal only for the well-off, chauffeured white people in Washington, she explained.
"They spent $40 million to find out if this man fooled around on his wife. I don't even have a car. That's probably more money than all the people who live in Ida B. Wells will ever see in their entire lives," she said, referring to one of Chicago's most notorious public housing projects a few blocks away.
Michele Webb removed a load from the dryer. She said she has not read Starr's report and has no interest in doing so. The world described by politicians inside the Capital Beltway is strange and unfamiliar to her, she said. "They say he violated the public trust by lying," said Webb, 31. "Well, who trusts politicians? They say that he violated the office of the president and how the president is supposed to be a moral leader, and I'm like, 'Didn't George Washington own slaves?' "
The scandal simply didn't seem to resonate in this forbidding community just off Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. No one here said they read the 453-page report when it was released Friday afternoon on the Internet. Few residents have a personal computer. And few appear to have any interest in the details of Clinton's affair.
The outrage here is reserved for the Chicago police, who arrested two boys, ages 7 and 8, for the murder of an 11-year-old girl, then dropped the charges a week ago when forensic tests revealed the presence of semen on the girl's clothes.
More relevant to these residents is the sound of gunfire at night or the racially motivated beating of an African American youth, 13-year-old Lenard Clark. One of the three white youths charged with the assault went on trial this week.
"That's just politics, what's going on in Washington," Ray Whitfield, 24, said, standing outside the laundry, just passing time.
"The Republicans [are] just trying to get the Democrats, and when the Republicans get one of their guys in the White House, the Democrats will do the same thing," he added. "It's like a game they play. [But] people here have got to deal with everyday life."
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company