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THE JACKSON REACTION EVERYBODY'S GOT A PROBLEM THESE DAYS. JESSE JACKSON, FOR instance; he's got a Marion Barry problem. And the Democratic party; it has a Jesse Jackson problem. And Marion Barry; he's got a career problem--as well as some possible legal and health-related problems. And don't forget the residents of Washington; they've got all kinds of problems.
In theory, there's an opportunity at hand that would allow everybody to solve their problems at once. Unfortunately, it might take Ann Landers to pull it off.
The opportunity is Jesse Jackson. No doubt you've read the carefully leaked story that Jackson may run for mayor of Washington. Since the leaker was almost certainly Jackson himself, the news can't be dismissed as idle gossip.
At bottom, there's a potential for political brilliance here, a deal that could work to the benefit of everyone involved. Jackson would benefit, the Democrats would benefit, the District would benefit, even Barry would benefit. Teh scenario is almost too good to be true--and for that reason alone, it probably won't work. Which is a shame.
At this point Jackson has turned the city's political landscape into a schoolyard game of basketball. His leak is akin to the fakes that the great Earl "the Pearl" Monroe threws as he came downcourt to freeze a defender in his sneakers. Today everyone is waiting to see if Jackson will shoot, pass, or drive to the basket. And in Monroe's immortal words, "How can anyone cover me when even I don't know what I'm going to do next?"
I've covered Jackson off and on for 10 years, and I've talked with people who've followed him longer than that. The consensus is that the he probably doesn't know what he's going to do next. He's put on a move, and he's waiting to see the reaction.
"He's like a Roman general camped outside the gates of a city," a Jackson strategist explains. "The army is massing and you can see the banners fluttering, but he won't come in unless he's invited. The Romans wanted the city fathers to say, 'Come in and take us over.'"
Jackson wants to be asked to run. He wants to be courted by Washington. But the person who must do the courting is Marion Barry. The conventional wisdom is that Barry won't, largely because he has nowhere to go if he leaves office. But I'm not so sure that's true. Barry has more options than you think, and he's smart enough to realize that Jackson offers a once-in-a-lifetime escape from a job that's only going to get nastier if he stays in it. Four years from now Barry …