Willie E. Tindal, a D.C. taxi driver, says he doesn't quite know what to make of his longtime hero, Jesse L. Jackson.
By day, Jackson is a newly elected shadow senator, responsible for lobbying Congress to gain statehood for the District. At the crack of dawn and late at night, Jackson appears on television as the host of a new talk show.
"I used to think the guy was great, but I am beginning to lose a little faith in Jackson," Tindal said recently. "It seems to me that all he is looking for is the limelight. Maybe he's got too many irons in the fire."
Since early this month, when he won his first elective office and began airing his nationally televised talk show in the Washington area, Jackson has been working hard to coordinate and reconcile his new vocations.
His office as shadow senator is his mission and priority, Jackson said, while the talk show is a job "for my family support."
Jackson acknowledges that he is stretching conventional bounds a bit between non-advocate journalist and political advocate, but insists that the experiment is working.
"I don't view it as if I am the debater," he said recently at the WRC-TV (Channel 4) studios, where the syndicated program is taped. "I am basically leading the discussions on these subject matters and will sometimes advocate a point of view. It's my obligation to be fair and to provide access and to inspire people to act."
The show's producers said it is not designed as a political platform for Jackson. "That may be the result, but that's not the show's intention," said co-executive producer Randy Douthit. "Jesse can't walk down the street without being a political platform."
Ward 6 community activist Jackie West says he approves of Jackson's new dual role as District government advocate and talk show host.
Recalling Jackson's recent journalistic foray to Iraq, which led to the release of some Americans held hostage, West said: "He can do anything. He can put on any kind of hat."
Jackson said that his two new jobs are not clashing careers, but that they complement his aims.
Since the Nov. 6 election, Jackson, who met with Mayor-Elect Sharon Pratt Dixon and D.C. Delegate-Elect Eleanor Holmes Norton to discuss D.C. statehood, has moved quickly on plans to boost the movement's momentum.
Before the election, Jackson supporters had devised a division of labor that called for Jackson to travel extensively throughout the country while the two other shadow legislators lobbied Congress and tended to grass-roots organizing.
Democrats Florence Pendleton, the other official elected to lobby the Senate for statehood, and Charles J. Moreland, elected to lobby the House, suggested recently that the plan was unacceptable.
Jackson insists that "there is no conflict" between him and his colleagues. Joseph F. Johnson, executive director of Jackson's National Rainbow Coalition, said Saturday that the three lobbyists have since talked and "agreed to come up with a plan that is acceptable to everybody."
At the same time, Jackson said he intends to maintain national visibility, and his weekly television program, which airs in 135 cities, figures prominently in that plan.
"It allows me to travel less and really reach more people . . . . I can do that through satellite a lot better than I can through personal air flight," he said.
"The Jesse Jackson Show," which was blacked out in the District because of the election campaign, aired for the first time here Nov. 11.
The program's producers concede that the first several episodes have done poorly in the ratings, partly because of the hour-long show's undesirable time slots -- 8 a.m. Sunday on Channel 4 in Washington and midnight Sunday on WMAR-TV (Channel 2) in Baltimore.
The show broadcast yesterday examined the fiscal crisis and other problems threatening the solvency of major cities such as the District, Philadelphia and Detroit.
After some goading from producers who persuaded him to inject fewer of his own views, Jackson has tried to strike a more impartial stance, even when dealing with guests whose political and racial views differ sharply from his own.
In a recent episode, Jackson rescued former Louisiana Ku Klux Klan member David Duke from verbal attacks by other panelists during a discussion about discrimination.
One segment, a discussion of spiraling murder rates in cities, included New York lawyer William Kunstler, Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Calif.) and D.C. Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr.
Despite attempts to cast the show as a broad cultural forum, it has a decisively political edge, and its tenor is Jesse Jackson activism through and through.
His advisers said they do not fear that the show will limit Jackson's political options, such as a third bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992, because his contract ends next year.
Some political activists, as well as some in the media, have questioned the wisdom of Jackson's dual role as television journalist and elected politician.
"It's unusual, but that's Jesse Jackson. He's become a pioneer of doing things his way," said Kevin Chavous, a member of the D.C. Statehood Commission.
Chavous, who attended a recent taping, said he believes Jackson's work for statehood, not his talk show performances and ratings, will ultimately determine how he is judged.
"I think he's got to do something demonstrative in the furtherance of statehood to maintain credibility," Chavous said.