2005 – YOUR editor enjoyed lunch today with his wife at Jimmy T’s five blocks down East Capitol Street from where George Bush and his capos were being given four more years to do damage to their country, its constitution, its culture, and its environment — not to mention further mischief to the rest of the world. The inauguration was taking place on the opposite side of the Capitol and there were hardly any cars or people and no signs of security.
The counter at Jimmy T’s was full so we sat in a booth. The TV was on but no one looked at the inauguration and the sound was turned to WASH-FM – loud enough so you couldn’t hear the helicopters overhead. For as long as it takes to eat a short stack with bacon and drink a cup of coffee we could pretend everything was okay.
The other day I walked by the Capitol and found myself wondering why we weren’t more paranoiac during the Cold War. When Johnson and Kennedy and Nixon were president you could still wander about the Capitol’s halls and through the associated office buildings as though you were actually a part owner. Yet if Tom Ridge had been in charge of setting the alerts for that era, he would have run out of colors. We were in far more danger than we are now.
Even if one wants to argue that a dirty bomb in a backpack is more dangerous than a clean bomb sent by a rocket or that a few suicidal young Arab guys are more dangerous than divisions of well dressed Soviet troops, you still do have to argue the point and that in itself suggests that the response should be somewhat similar.
But there’s little similar about it and as I walked down the hill by the Capitol it suddenly struck me that this isn’t about me and you; it’s about them. We are being governed by some intensely frightened people. From George Bush on down. Much of the homeland security business, in Washington at least, is to provide personal protection to important people from the consequence of the extremely bad things they are doing. We are the victims of both Al Qaeda and Il Dubya, told to give up our rights and freedoms so that the worst leaders of our entire history can go about their business without having to suffer for it. The whole city of Washington has become the armored vest of the Bush administration and Congress.