A baffled press corps sat in Mayor Marion Barry’s conference room last week, wondering if it was suffering a mass delusion or watching the city’s chief executive furiously backpedaling from his usual kick-ass-and-take-names attitude. In fact, Barry had just gotten a good tongue-lashing from D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Reps.

James Walsh (R-N.Y.) and Tom Davis (R-Va.), warning him that ’60s mau-mau tactics were no longer playing well on Capitol Hill. If the rhetoric had changed, however, the meaning behind it had not. Herewith, a sampling of comments from the press conference and other recent venues, along with handy interpretations:


“The Barry administration has done nothing that would mandate this [financial recovery] board.”

I haven’t messed up lately.

“Most people in Congress understand the mayor has to have the basic authority to hire and fire people.”

Congress can do whatever it wants, as long as I’m still in charge.

“I have no problems with an advise-and-consent process [for the recovery board]….I’m willing to be wherever I need to be to make this work.”

…as long as I’m still in charge.

“I’m getting beat across the head politically all over the place. Who wants to force workers to take a pay cut I would not take myself?”

Screw the deficit; all I’m worried about is getting re-elected.

“I’m telling you that [Congress] cannot [create a control board] without my participation and the citizens’ of Washington and the workers’.”

Don’t fuck with me; you don’t want a “disturbance” on your hands.

“The majority of the people hostile and critical are Republicans [in Congress], and mostly freshmen.”

Look who’s complaining—ignorant white men who don’t know a damned thing about this city.

“You must remember some members of Congress were conducting dialogue through the news media; I conducted my dialogue through the same media.”

Let’s see who has the biggest…headlines.

“How is my language different? I may use a different word here or there. But I’ve basically been this way all along.

I am the situationist, always ready for whatever the scenario demands.