Adrian Fenty and the politics of showing up
Metro held a one-year anniversary memorial service for the victims of the Red Line crash this morning. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty was late.
The ceremony started at 10 a.m. According to Post reporters on the scene, a phalanx of elected officials -- including Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) -- were seated well before the start. Fenty arrived after 10:45, after almost all of the family members had already spoken. He delivered short remarks, sat down with the rest of the officials on the dais, then left after a memorial plaque was unveiled. He did not stay for the retiring of the colors by a Metro police honor guard.
Fenty is a busy man, no doubt. But he's also a man running for reelection, and a man who was criticized for being "noticeably absent from a string of memorials, funerals and wakes" that followed the crash, as Jonathan Mummolo and Nikita Stewart reported last summer.
"Fenty showed up at services for train operator Jeanice McMillan, but he was an hour late and was wearing a light-colored summer suit that some said was inappropriate," they wrote. Fenty skipped a well-attended memorial service for Maj. Gen. David F. Wherley Jr. and wife Ann, both crash victims. "The absences are all the more stark for a mayor who has built his political career on seemingly being everywhere at all times and has enjoyed a reputation as an energetic, attentive public servant."
As for today, mayoral spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said that Fenty "had a previous commitment from which he rushed right over to join the families and other officials in dedicating the day to the victims of last year's Metro accident. This was an event he would not miss." (He again wore a light-colored suit.)
Fenty's main campaign rival, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, didn't attend this morning's ceremony -- he was "at a briefing hosted by business leaders on workforce development issues that ran longer than expected," spokeswoman Doxie McCoy says. But Ward 4 council member Muriel Bowser and Ward 5 council member Harry Thomas Jr. -- whose wards were either part of or very near the crash scene -- showed up in his stead, and Thomas offered regrets on Gray's behalf. Gray did speak at a luncheon with victims' families after the ceremony, McCoy says. In the past, Fenty has been reticent to send proxies to speak for him publicly.
What has become clear about Fenty over 3 1/2 years is that he not only prefers action to words, but he has a distaste for grand public gestures that could somehow be dismissed as "old politics." And his disdain of the old ways seems to extend to the received wisdom of urban politicking -- kissing babies, showing up for funerals and otherwise observing the usual niceties. But to what end?
I'm reminded of this passage from Mark Leibovich's 2008 profile of MSNBC host Chris Matthews in the New York Times Magazine:
[Matthews] is diligent about showing up at the city's tribal rites -- hotel dinners, book parties, tributes. He is dutiful about traveling to family weddings, funerals, graduations and first communions. "I place a high premium on showing up," Matthews says. "It's the Woody Allen thing. And one of the things [longtime House speaker Tip O'Neill] said about certain people -- and he meant this as a put-down -- was, 'You never see him around anymore.'"
It's important to be around. When our plane from Cleveland landed in Washington, Matthews learned that William F. Buckley Jr. had just died. Matthews appeared stricken, though he barely knew Buckley. He said he would attend the funeral.
I quote this not to say that Fenty would be generally well served to emulate Chris Matthews. But Matthews' "showing up" ethos reflects what old-school politicos (like O'Neill) have long understood -- showing up means showing people that you care.
Otherwise, how else will they know?
Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters
June 22, 2010; 1:24 PM ET
Categories: Adrian Fenty , The District
Save & Share: Previous: No more sugary milk, cereal for D.C. Public Schools
Next: DeMorning DeBonis: June 23, 2010
Posted by: winston61 | June 22, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 22, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ged0386 | June 22, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: candycane1 | June 22, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: paul_postie | June 22, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: politicalrealist | June 22, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: fivetogo | June 22, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: debonisma | June 22, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bodymagicbykim | June 22, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: fivetogo | June 22, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dcis1 | June 22, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: drfields | June 22, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: janowicki | June 22, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bob_dylan_rocks | June 22, 2010 11:26 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 1citizen | June 22, 2010 11:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | June 23, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: concernedaboutdc | June 23, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: NewEra | June 23, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: oknow1 | June 23, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.