- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2012

Be it the moon phases, the roller-coaster weather or the high pollen count, something is making people say terrible things at the worst possible time.

D.C. political legend Marion Barry, who served four terms as city mayor and now occupies the Ward 8 seat on the D.C. Council, scorched his opponents in the Democratic primary on April 3.

But in his victory party remarks, he made some left-field comments about Asian business owners and their “dirty shops” in his ward, not to mention that they ought to be replaced by black owners. Mr. Barry has since apologized and met with Asian leaders to mend fences.

Meanwhile, Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen donned Mr. Barry’s batting gloves to take some hacks in the “You said what?!” cage. The eccentric coach, who took the reigns for a rejuvenating season (new stadium, new logo, etc.) in a city with a huge Cuban refugee population, told a magazine reporter he loves dictator Fidel Castro because he has managed to stay in power for decades despite death threats and adversity.

Guillen held a news conference to apologize, but the Cuban residents of Miami aren’t about to forgive and forget.

Comparing off-color remarks is a fragile business, but Mr. Barry and Guillen share a reputation for lacking the usual brain-to-mouth filter. In other words, you kind of see the zaniness coming and shouldn’t be surprised when they go off the rails.

Nonetheless, both are in a highly visible place of responsibility. And that means they should know better.

Public education

Chalk it up to bad timing, a bad breakfast, or just a bad choice of words, but Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell, Stafford Republican, found himself in a veritable sea of hot water last week after comments he made at an event in Richmond.

Mr. Howell is the former chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative group that promotes free-market principles and provides model legislation for state legislatures. The group has come under particular fire recently from progressive groups for its association with Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law that is in the middle of the Trayvon Martin shooting case. On Thursday, at a news conference intended to tout a recent report from ALEC showing Virginia near the top of the heap in its economic competitiveness compared to other states, Mr. Howell instead found himself defending the group and saying it was being unfairly intimidated and extorted.

Following the event, Mr. Howell got into a testy exchange with Anna Scholl, executive director of the advocacy group ProgressVA. The group released a report several months ago documenting extensive legislative and financial ties between ALEC and Virginia legislators, a report Mr. Howell described as inaccurate.

During the exchange, after Ms. Scholl asked for clarification on what the inaccuracies were, Mr. Howell grew frustrated, blurting out, “I guess I’m not speaking in little enough words for you to understand.”

To which Ms. Scholl replied, “I’m a smart girl, actually, I went to the University of Virginia, I benefited from public education in Virginia; I think words with multiple syllables will be just fine for me.”

Yeesh. Mr. Howell later called Ms. Scholl to apologize for the remarks, but it’s safe to say that there’s one less Christmas card exchange to worry about this year.

Ego check

Last week was a rough one for Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

The Prince George’s Democrat took much of the blame when the House and Senate bickered on the General Assembly’s final day and adjourned before passing a package of revenue bills.

Gov. Martin O’Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch piled on the Senate president, accusing him of deliberately stalling budget talks during the final week to pressure the House into passing a Senate-backed gambling bill. The House and Senate played chicken with the issues on the final day and both ended up losing, as none of the proposals reached the floor in time to be passed before the assembly’s required midnight adjournment.

Mr. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, was red hot over the stalemate as he accused Senate members of being “obsessed” and “addicted” to gambling.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, laid into gambling supporters for their insistence on using “gambling gimmicks, bake sales and bingos” to raise money for the state.

Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, a Democrat, even called for the 69-year-old Mr. Miller to step aside as Senate president.

But the criticism was not enough to damage the ego of the outspoken Mr. Miller, the state’s longest-serving Senate president and a man who frequently jokes about the Senate being more efficient and civil than the House and how he knows how Senate members are going to vote before they do.

When a visibly peeved Mr. O’Malley announced at a bill-signing ceremony that the assembly had “failed” Marylanders by letting a budget without tax hikes go into effect, Mr. Miller snapped back when the governor gave him the floor. The two were seated next to each other the whole time.

“We didn’t fail anybody,” were the first words out of his mouth as he went on to downplay the budget fiasco, saying the revenues can be passed easily during a special session.

When asked later about the governor’s comments, Mr. Miller painted what the governor called “the low point” of his tenure as merely water under the bridge.

“He’s not a happy camper right now but he’ll get over it,” he said.

Tom Howell Jr., David Sherfinski and David Hill contributed to this report

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