The release of Hillary Clinton’s “Hard Choices,” and Marion Barry’s “Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr.” within days of each other was no doubt unintentional. But the timing is nonetheless fortuitous. The books draw attention to two of Washington’s most enduring political war horses.
Clinton and Barry probably wouldn’t care to be linked with each other. They may share the same party label and left-leaning politics, but they tend to move in different circles.
But the two politicians share a common experience: long public careers filled with year upon year of melodrama.
Think Clinton and Barry and think of lives immersed in political fights, legal struggles and embarrassing personal gaffes — many quite painful to watch.
If they fall, they get back up and gallop off into another battle — often to conflicts of their own making. And they have gone about their various quests and quarrels under the glare of a media that, despite the protestations of journalists and pundits, are as close to Clinton and Barry as two coats of paint.
Drama Queen? Drama King? Can’t decide which title is more fitting. But drama royalty they are. They thrive on it.
Strife, rhubarbs and public scrutiny are their constant companions.
A word association that starts with Hillary Clinton brings these thoughts to mind: secretary of state and U.S. senator. Also Whitewater, Jim and Susan McDougal, Rose Law Firm, “Hillarycare,” Travelgate, Filegate, Monica (last name unnecessary), philanderer in chief.
Clinton is the only first lady ever to be subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury, but it must be noted that no investigation has ended with her being charged with wrongdoing. Over the years, Clinton has been a lightning rod for controversy and criticism, especially from the far right.
Think Clinton, think combat.
So, too, Marion Barry. I’ve written dozens of editorials and columns about him over the past 24 years. I’ve known him even longer. Judgment gets a rest today.
The words that come to mind when one thinks of Barry: civil rights activist, four-term mayor, council member and school board member. And also Rasheeda Moore, Vista Hotel, federal prison, a city in receivership, financial control board, unpaid taxes, council censure.
The irony is that through it all, Clinton and Barry have amassed loyal and devoted followers. There are people who swear by Clinton and others who believe in Barry — no matter what. The two of them enjoy the kind of faith and trust that make the competition drool.
Clinton and Barry also have legions of detractors, people who would cross the street to avoid them. Actually, detractors isn’t the right word. Haters is more like it. There are folks who fervently believe that Washington would be better served if one or both were gone.
So, yes, in a town full of attention-getters, Clinton and Barry stand out. One reason, in my view, is because of their mastery of conditions that would bring down the average person. Clinton and Barry have lived through events that would cause most of us to want to take to our beds and stay there permanently.
The other reason is the way in which they handle things. Clinton and Barry don’t seem to remain stuck with their problems. Discomfort doesn’t stop them. They have this amazing ability to take blows and move on. For Clinton, there was life after Monica. The sting took Barry down, but he was never out.
And they seem to find an upside to everything that happens to them.
So here they are, long after their lives have been turned inside out, and when perhaps they should be thinking about hanging it up, telling stories about themselves.
Do these books mark the end for Hillary Clinton and Marion Barry? Does a chicken have lips? These writings are preparation for the next chapter.
There’s simply no stopping war horses until the good Lord calls them home.
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