- 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

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