Martha Reeves denies being politician — good point

Feb 8, 2011 at 5:52 pm
“I am not a politician,” Martha Reeves said last month  on a British TV interview program, adding, “You have to be dishonest to be a politician.”

And whether or not she is a politician she made a strong case that her departure is little loss to politics.

In her time on the HARDtalk show with host Stephen Sackur, Reeves managed to mangle the year of Detroit’s 1943 riot (it wasn’t 1945), the city population (never was 3 million and hasn’t been 950,000 in a many a year) and her own family’s reason for coming North in the 1940s (“Well, my dad and his brothers could no longer find employment after the invention of the cotton gin” overlooks the fact that the gin was invented before 1800).

She also confused more current events that she was a part of herself. Yes, she was right when she said “my mayor is in jail” as is her former City Council President Pro Tem, in reference to Kwame Kilpatrick and Monica Conyers. But to hear Reeves, you would have thought the City Council had its own jail wing:

My mayor is in jail! Most of the city council people — even our pro tem is in jail. So, I wasn't the one, I didn't take the bribes, and I didn't know exactly how to be a scoundrel. I got elected on my own money; I wasn't bought. So I didn't really fit in there.

At another point she refined that reference to the council to say that “Nearly everybody I served with is in jail or being ... going through some deposition.

” Whew. That's a little better.  (And as Jeff T. Wattrick at points out, Reeves was approached for questioning by the FBI in the Synargo scandal — she admitted as much — and she accepted and kept campaign donations from the company.)

As to how she became one of the few council members to blow re-election in recent history, Reeves made it sound like she hadn’t actually run, saying:

Well, I can't change the world, but I did a wonderful job as a City Council person, and I didn't really run a race or try to be re-elected because I realized that is not my forte. I am not a politician. You have to have another mindset to be a politician. There's not one that you learn from-the golden rule.

And here’s Reeves elaborating on her single term in office:

I lead a good race, I did a good stay. I was honest, I was never caught cursing or lying or falsely accused of anything. And I did it with a clear mind: I was never drunk, I was never high — I was always there, dutifully, doing my job.

Could she set the bar any lower? And, of course, one of the issues was how dutifully she did her job, since she at one point was performing in England while council was in session and her colleagues were dealing with such issues as the resignation-under-fire of Conyers. Said Reeves:

I was criticized mainly because I did go away and sing, but none of them [her council colleagues perhaps?] were ever show business people. None of them ever were singers.

To Reeves’ credit, she kept her cool as Sackur went into badger mode to try to get her to atone for the sin of recording fare like “Dancing in the Street” against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and urban unrest. “Does it seem just a little bit naive?” Sackur needled.

Countered Reeves:

No, I just feel it has a joy that we need to bring us out of any swamp, out of any depression, out of any sadness. Any music that will enlighten you and bring your heart up, and bring your spirit up, to a level where you just wanna dance and sing and just feel lighthearted, then I’m happy with it and I'm glad about it.

It’s not as if the non-songwriting singers of Motown — like Reeves — were in position to call their shots and do otherwise. Even the singer-songwriters like Marvin Gaye had to fight to make political statements like What’s Going On.

Thanks to MT editorial intern Ilissa Gilmore for transcription of the BBC interview, and thanks to the tipster who dropped off a copy. An excerpt can be found online here.