Paul Jacob

How can the public tire of Barry, when he always comes up with a new gag funnier than the last?

Months ago, as gas prices were going through the roof, he brought a gasification machine to town. The machine, which Barry had parked in a lot owned by Union Temple Baptist Church, looks like something from Professor Gadget: lots of pipes, motors and electric doodads attached to a two-story chimney.

But this contraption purportedly turns garbage or sewage into pollution-free electricity and drinking water. Barry told reporters (and other gawkers of the future), "This is not a sham, not a game. This is the real stuff."

He wants the District of Columbia to adopt this technology, and a spokesperson for the DC Water and Sewer Authority said, "The unit is pretty impressive, and the technology is worth looking into." The spokesperson went on to express an interest in observing this mighty machine once it is turned on.

One slight problem arose, however. Barry couldn't turn on the machine.

You see, Rev. Willie F. Wilson didn't want the machine on his property to begin with. The preacher and the politician reached a compromise where Barry and his scientists could leave the machine on the church parking lot, but not turn it on.

That was after the police were called, to prevent a fight between the Rev. Wilson and Barry. When Wilson had refused to fully embrace this opportunity for cheap, clean, limitless energy, a shouting match ensued. Wilson reportedly called Barry a liar. Barry called Wilson "power hungry," while also threatening to have the nonprofit status of Wilson's church "investigated."

As Barry explained, "He's out of his mind, being un-Christian and crazy like that" — leading the ever-thoughtful wizard of Washington to ask introspectively, "What's wrong with him?"

Meanwhile, our energy challenges persist.

Then, the other day, Barry was robbed in his home. After helping carry Barry's groceries inside for him, two guys stuck guns in his face and ran away with his wallet and the $200 enclosed.

Now, admit it, you would have been angry at those hoodlums who had robbed you and threatened your life. But this honorable man is above all that. Speaking directly to his attackers at a news conference, he declared, "I have no animosities. I don't even want you prosecuted, really. I love you."

The former mayor offered, "I don't advocate what they do. I advocate conditions to change what they do."

Barry called for stiffer penalties for gun possession. Because obviously we should blame the "conditions" that "guns are everywhere." Good grief, don't blame the people who stick those guns in other people's faces.

Mostly, though, Barry felt "hurt" about this "betrayal." As the former mayor explained, "There is sort of an unwritten code in Washington, among the underworld and the hustlers and these other guys, that I am their friend."

Barry wants to be everybody's friend, like politicians everywhere — only he just carries this to its logical conclusion. As reductio ad absurdum's go, he's been funnier than most.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.