Loose Lips

Worst Week Ever?

Between Navigatorgate, crony hiring controversies, and Sulaimon Brown, last week was a bad one for the District. But did it rank as D.C. government's historical nadir?

So argues Frank James of NPR's politics blog. Reviewing the Wilson Building's no good, very bad week, James speculated that the media spectacles had set back the city's efforts to preserve or expand home rule:

In fact, it may have been one of the worst weeks ever in the annals of city government. That really saying something since Washington is the city that literally saw one-time Mayor Marion Barry busted by federal agents in a hotel room on cocaine charges.

The post drew some quick derision on Twitter from our colleague Jason Cherkis, among others. His point: A bum SUV deal and some questionable appointments don't rank with, say, a mayoral crack bust or the imposition of a federal panel to boss around democratically-elected officials.

I'm not so sure the worst-week-ever argument is quite that absurd. In 1990, when Marion Barry was arrested, or 1995, when his bankrupt government was supplanted by the Control Board, District residents were accustomed to constant news stories about scandal and ineptitude—it just happened that those particular stories were especially bad. By contrast, Washingtonians today have spent a decade hearing, rightly or wrongly, that theirs is now a city where the minor tasks of self-governance are handled with drama-free competence. Against that backdrop, last week's outrages came with a shock value much greater than their relatively puny financial or news value.

And thank God for that! When the appointment of hackish ex-candidates or insiders' children stops shocking people, that will be a genuinely low week for the city.

At any rate, what do you think? Over at City Desk, Assistant Managing Editor Michael E. Grass and a crew of our interns have been collecting local-history high- and low-lights for a feature called Today in D.C. History. We're always looking for less celebrated moments in the District's past. Leave your worst-week-ever nominations in the comments section below. Maybe you'll have remembered something we—and the rest of the city—tried hard to forget.

  • http://twitter.com/kcivey Keith Ivey

    You're saying it's the worst ever because of the public/media reaction, not what happened? I don't see how even that is true. Is the reaction and media coverage for the current scandals bigger than for Barry's arrest? I don't think so.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com Jason Cherkis

    I think Control Board and Barry arrest were both more shocking and more of a psychic blow than Fully Loaded or Gray's hiring fiasco. Neither current scandal are all that shocking, in fact they are cliches of city government. You practically predicted Gray would do this before he won--at least to me (not sure if it was in the editorial). It was clear that he was going to owe people favors. (Which still sucks).

    You seem to suggest that we simply expected less 10, 15 years ago. Or we expected Barry to one day get busted. And the feds to takeover. I was around for both and both events still had the power to shock, the power to get everyone depressed.

    Worst weeks ever: How about the Redskins leaving town? D.C. going bankrupt in the early '90s? Sharon Pratt --all four years of her?

    And of course, Mayor Williams getting booted off the ballot for those phoney petitions. Even sadder: the Bishops who were scapegoated and then charged in the case, letting campaign's bigwigs off the hook.

    Fully Loaded didn't turn us into a national joke the way Williams' petition scandal did. Or the way Barry's "Bitch Set Me Up" video continues to resonate.

    The only difference is the rise of social media. We can now endlessly retweet these scandals over and over again until they seem a little more bigger than they really are.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    Cherkis- I'm with you on this. While this past week has shocked me somewhat because of my expectations for Gray, I hardly believe that it's on par with Barry's bust. Any comment Ron Moten made or public hearing involving Fenty's buddies, or the dark lord Nickle smiling, is supremely more shocking than S. Brown shedding tears on tv.

  • ferrizzle

    if cherkis ever came down to city hall, he might have a clue. nah - sitting behind a computer on twitter all day is a much better method of reporting! why does he even have an opinion?

  • Terry Miller

    I was most upset(and shocked) when Barry won after going to prison. I remember being embarassed to say I lived in D.C. Nowadays, I enjoy Barry and wish the press would leave the poor guy alone. Really.

  • Happytobegone

    Chickletts, you can try and turn away from the fact that you picked an incompetent moron to run DC. "Well Pol Pot wasn't quite as bad as Stalin."

    You make me laugh Chickletts -- laugh with satisfaction that my taxes no longer go down the rat hole that is DC "government". All this in Grampy Gray's first couple of months!

    HA HA HA!

    DC gets the government people like Chickletts deserve.