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Can Vince Gray compare his Rhee punt to Fenty's Ramsey punt?


At last night's debate at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, a recurring conflict between mayoral combatants Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray flared up yet again: Fenty slammed Gray for refusing to say what he'd do about schools chancellor Michelle Rhee until after the election. Then Gray accused Fenty of hypocrisy, claiming that in 2006 candidate Fenty said he wouldn't make a decision on a key appointee until after the election.

So what's the deal?

Gray actually cited his sources last night, pointing to a Washington City Paper article written by my gym buddy/drinking pal Arthur Delaney (though Gray name-checked him as "Arthur Daley"). In fact, I edited the piece, which ran on Nov. 2, 2006, about whether Fenty would hold on to Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.

"We're not making any decisions on any cabinet-level positions until after the general election," Fenty said at the time.

Another Nov. 2 article, by the Post's Allison Klein, noted that Fenty said "that he would not make any decisions about cabinet-level positions until after the [general] election Tuesday." His quote: "I have to get elected first. ... Right after that, we won't waste any time."

So who occupies the high ground? Was Fenty punting on a tough question on Ramsey, as Fenty claims that Gray is punting on Rhee? Or was Fenty merely "saying was that we were going to make a full slate of announcements" at a later date, as Fenty claimed last night?

Couple of things to note: Fenty, at the time, had already won in the primary and was days away from his general-election coronation. Also, Ramsey was the closest thing to a Michelle Rhee of his day, the most controversial of Mayor Anthony A. Williams's top cabinet officials. That said, his tenure did not play anywhere near as high-profile a role in the 2006 campaigns as Rhee's does today. The other difference: While Rhee has made it pretty clear she won't be sticking around for a Gray administration, Ramsey didn't say one way or another whether he'd leave the city if Fenty won.

From the plain language of the quotes, Gray is right to say, as he did last night, that Fenty's 2006 punt "wasn't about announcing any decision." Fenty told reporters he'd be making the actual decisions after the election, not simply making the announcements.

But the context was different. Fenty wasn't being pressed on his intentions on a hot-button issue on the middle of the campaign; his election was fait accompli as of Nov. 2, 2006. The Ramsey response strikes me as a sop to reporters who wanted to know Fenty's intentions on one of his highest-profile appointments while he was still pondering his options.

Gray's position on Rhee, however, is an example of a candidate walking a political tightrope -- a candidate who needs votes from both Rhee proponents and Rhee opponents and needs to find a way to get them both.

And if you're a voter hoping that Gray and Rhee can somehow make amends if Gray wins the primary, the outcome of the Ramsey episode is not good: Fenty did exactly what people thought he would, firing Ramsey as his first major personnel move less than three weeks after Delaney and Klein's stories.

Or is it so bad after all? Fenty ended up appointing Cathy Lanier, now the most beloved government official in town.

File photo by Lucian Perkins/The Washington Post

By Mike DeBonis  |  August 25, 2010; 9:29 PM ET
Categories:  Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District , Vincent Gray  
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Next: DeMorning DeBonis: Aug. 26, 2010


Its obvious Gray plans to fire Rhee, so why won't he stand up and say as much? Probably because such a decision is incredibly myopic and cynical, given all the progress the DCPS has made during her tenure.

Is this what you want in a mayor? A man who is afraid to be honest? A man who is unwilling to commit, despite the fact that his position is obvious? A man who would sacrifice progress for politics?

Posted by: asuka1 | August 25, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

No need for chairman gray to respond on the issue of who stays or go, he must focus on getting elected mayor first.
Thereafter, he will have ample time to focus on "world class appointees" for the positions in the dc government. Afterall, king fenty said as much in 2006.

Posted by: dcgovcorruption | August 26, 2010 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Gray has no reason to say anything about appointments until he wins. However Rhee has made it easy. She is the one who said she will not work with Gray. Her level of committment is on the line not his.

Also note that Fenty never campaigned on school takeover either. That came after inauguration. It was his plan but he never expressed it. Why should this be an expectation for Gray?

Posted by: candycane1 | August 26, 2010 7:45 AM | Report abuse

It would be inappropriate and smug for Vincent Gray to make appointment decisions before he even got the job.

Competent people understand that, other than the Fenty Administration, transition teams after elections field the country for best fit candidates for appointments based upon the issues of the day in the jurisdiction.

Education reform cannot, does not, and should not rely on a person. It should be ingrained into the system, as is now evidenced by the increases in DCPS middle-high school performance as a result of the systemic improvement plan of Dr. Clifford Janey, Rhee's predecessor.

I would be disappointed in Gray should he begin making decisions that he would be only be entitled to make as the Mayor. That would be VERY presumptuous.

The public and journalist should just sit back and 'hope' that Gray will do the right thing for the people of the District in the event he wins. After all, should he appoint proven leaders in their appointed field of expertise, he will be waves above what has been the case with Adrian Fenty and his cabinet appointees.

Case in point, Neil Albert, the worst DC City Administrator, EVER!!!

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | August 26, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Thank you concerned. It is inappropriate AND Michelle Rhee has stated her position.
No one person should have that much power to sway an entire election, fire a slue of people at their discretion, intimidate at their will, bully people; all of these characteristics are flaws that the Fenty administration has ushered into DC government and it HAS TO GO!!!
There is no politcal heaven but there sure is a political hell and the DC EOM's current state is AFLAME!!!
Another point, I need to understand why the Fenty campaign is so angry all the time??? They speak with such force and disgust. They should be happy this is the situation their king created. Stop the hate and just go away!!! September 14th can't get here quick enough. Gray, at this point doesn't even need to mud sling at Fenty, let him fall on his own. HE IS GOING DOWN LIKE HUMPTY DUMPTY. Besides I hear there's a recall on eggs right about now.

Posted by: dliddell | August 26, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

To Dliddell:

Gray has done nothing but run an antagonistic campaign.

Why doesn't Gray come out and campaign instead of mud slinging as well as his nasty spitting campaign workers.

Oh, haven't seen the Gray campaigners?
Why? where are they? they don't have anything to campaign on??

Posted by: pdv1 | August 26, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Maybe you don't see so many Gray campaigners because they are volunteers who generally knock on doors one by one.

This is contrast to Fenty campaigners who are paid and go out in groups of 8 or 10.

And still Fenty is behind.

Posted by: efavorite | August 26, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

What about Lanier? Don't you assume she's gone in January if Gray is mayor?

Posted by: blankspace | August 26, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Lanier, when asked about the election, said she was here to serve the people of DC.

I read it in the Post a while back - Sorry - don't have the reference handy.

Posted by: efavorite | August 26, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

DeBonis - how about doing some REAL REPORTING instead of your indirect endorsement of Fenty.

You need to ask Michelle Rhee if she will publicly commit to serving as DC school chancellor for 4 FULL YEARS if Fenty is reelected.

The bottom line is that in less than a year, Rhee's moving truck will be heading west to Sacramento so she can be with her soon-to-be husband Mayor Johnson.

Regardless of whether Fenty or Gray becomes mayor, Michelle Rhee is going to be leaving DC. It doesn't matter who is elected, Rhee will be leaving DC. Get it?

Get real DeBonis, and do some REAL REPORTING.

Posted by: ashafer_usa | August 26, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Fenty made the following statement(I am paraphrasing) --there is no way I am going to say what I will do after an election until the election is over on the Channel 4 morning news earlier today.

Why should Gray.

@pdv1 - you sound as desperate as Fenty. Are you really Fenty or his mother?

@asuka1 - It appears that you are willing to support a THUG WHO IS SUPPORTED BY THUGS. You are afraid of a man who will stand up and not put his head up Rhee's behind if there is any room left because yours is already there.

Posted by: guylady201001 | August 26, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

King Fenty is about to be dethroned but he need not focus on the goodwill he's squandered nor the election he's about to lose - he should worry about finding a good criminal defense attorney.

Posted by: firefenty9-14 | August 27, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Wow! No, stick to the issues.....

Posted by: drfields | August 27, 2010 10:04 PM | Report abuse

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