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Story pick: The deconstruction of Adrian Fenty

By Steve Hendrix

If you want to understand what happened last night to the mayor of Washington, you need to read the story written last week by The Washington Post's Marc Fisher. It is a masterful take on Fenty's astonishingly spoiled chemistry with the District's black community (and a parallel look at Vincent Gray's comfortable, old-school communion with the same voters). And it is a clinic in print portraiture, where fine details are the brushwork of a grand explanatory vision. Take a long look and you will finally grasp the central paradox of this election: that half the city can applaud the incumbent's progress on vital issues and still despise the incumbent.

The mayor who just four years ago won the most sweeping victory in the District's history, prevailing in every single election precinct, now walks a gantlet of shouts, insults and overt acts of disdain. A retired man refuses the mayor's handshake. The head of the city's Minority Contractors and Business Association, Robert Green, shouts at him: "How long you going to keep apologizing? Minority contractors can't get no work." A woman tells Green not to waste his breath: "Don't you know he won't listen because you're not white?" A very loud white man wearing a Gray T-shirt keeps screaming, "Sinclair Skinner, Sinclair Skinner," right in the mayor's face, invoking the name of Fenty's controversial fraternity brother and friend, who has gone from failed businessman to flourishing contractor over the past four years.

Fenty started this visit with a big smile, calling out greetings, but now he steps silently through the barrage, the veins in his head bulging, eyes wide, lips tightened. Finally, a man crosses the street, hand extended.

"My heart was all out for you four years ago," says Yusef Muhammad, still pumping the mayor's arm. "But then you put your back to us."

Fenty doesn't flinch. But his voice is dead serious as he responds: "Maybe if I tell you what we've done, it will open up your mind. The mayor recites his accomplishments right here in Ward 8 -- four new recreation centers, libraries, school improvements, new teachers, fewer homicides. "Doesn't that make you feel a little more open-minded?"

"No," Muhammad says, it does not.

Full disclosure: Fisher is my boss. (Maximum full disclosure: He's the best darned boss a young reporter ever had. We call him Pops. Or sometimes My Liege). But those cries of "Sycophant!" will die on your soon as you read the story.

By Steve Hendrix  | September 15, 2010; 7:13 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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