btw

Click to follow
The Independent US
Former mayor Marion Barry, as much a part of Washington folklore as the pesky genus Magicicada, is back - and all of a sudden DC politics hasn't been as entertaining since, well, the last time Barry was around

The local scene is all aflutter, and I refer not to those 17-year cicadas which will be buzz bombing and deafening us for three weeks yet. Former mayor Marion Barry, as much a part of Washington folklore as the pesky genus Magicicada, is back - and all of a sudden DC politics hasn't been as entertaining since, well, the last time Barry was around. Having been re-elected mayor in 1994 after serving a jail term for using crack cocaine with a prostitute, Barry is already a come-back kid for the age. Are we about to have the third incarnation of mayor Marion, a new golden age of scandals, cronyism, and snow-blocked streets? This time his sights are apparently set no higher than a seat on the city council. If he wins, it's trouble for our very proper, very reassuring and very boring incumbent Anthony Williams. But a good deal of fun for the rest of us.

How delightful to see an old friend come up trumps in an unexpected metier. Michael Mandelbaum is one of the brainiest foreign policy boffins in town, whose last literary venture was a 500-page offering on Peace, Democracy and Free Markets in the 21st Century. But now he's changed tack completely with a treatise on the importance of sport in America. His thesis is not so much that sport is a metaphor for life - who was it who said that American football is the perfect image of American society: endless talking punctuated by brief moments of extreme violence? Rather, Michael argues, in this age of spin, sport is one of the few areas of life where what you see is what is actually happening (steroids permitting). And if America should choose to conquer the world by sport rather than arms, which sport should it be? His rather surprising answer: basketball.

These late spring weeks of school and university graduations in the US offer an Englishman one small and private pleasure, all the sweeter for being unshared. Amid the all-American features of the season, like commencement speeches, class valedictarians and primly licentious prom parties, there lurks a little sliver of Britannia. For reasons I have never understood, a high point of the graduation ceremony is the playing of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1. For the natives it's just a suitably stirring tune for a stirring day. For us of course it is Land of Hope and Glory - which should be, but lamentably is not, our national anthem.

Now that a John Kerry presidency is a very real possibility, one of its most fascinating elements is the potential First Lady story. The new JFK oozes gravitas but is a pretty cheerless soul. Not so Teresa Heinz Kerry, the fabulously wealthy Portuguese-born heiress, deep into Botox and pre-nups, fluent in four languages, etc, etc. With her husband leading in the polls, she must be recalling her words on the eve of her 1995 marriage to the ambitious senator from Massachusetts. For anyone who loves life, she confided, the idea of being First Lady was "worse than going to a Carmelite convent". Rest assured that her White House will not be a cloistered house of prayer.

John Walsh is away

Comments