- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2000

The November general elections are but three months away, and before you know it Pennsylvania Avenue will be awash in the first presidential inauguration of the new millennium. But will folks get to parade in front of the White House? Or will that fabled section in front of the White House, closed since the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, remain off limits?"We will reopen Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House as a symbolic expression of our confidence in the restoration of the rule of law," the Republican Party platform states. Texas Gov. George W. Bush "does not like the symbolism of Pennsylvania Avenue being blocked off," his spokesman, Ray Sullivan says, and would like to see it reopened.

Compare that, please, to the Clinton White House, which acquiesced to the bunker mentality fostered by the U.S. Secret Service in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Oklahoma City. To be sure, the bombing was horrific, killing more than 160 men, women and children and leaving all Americans wondering about their safety as well as that of this great democratic republic.

Still, while safety and security are genuine concerns, it always has been apparent the Secret Service never gave serious consideration to other options regarding 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Nor, for that matter, did the Secret Service give great weight to the consequences of erecting what essentially is a "Berlin Wall" of ugly cement barricades or planting a staggering sentry of foot patrols, cruisers and dogs. Indeed, the White House no longer symbolizes the openness of a true democracy and it must.

There are parochial concerns as well. The U.S. Treasury Department, which is adjacent to the White House and the agency which oversees the Secret Service, understands full-well the hardships its boneheaded decisions have foisted on the nation's capital since the May 20, 1995, closing. According to Treasury, the closing of just two mere blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue, from 15th to 17th Streets, had cost the District over $1 million by 1997, and traffic congestion remains a nightmare more than five years later. Historic structures in the area, including Decatur House and St. John's Episcopal Church, were hard hit by the new traffic patterns and subsequent heavy trucks and construction. Nearby businesses still complain about the loss of vehicular as well as pedestrian traffic. Esther Koegler, who runs a beauty salon around the corner on New York Avenue, says the barricades represent "a Berlin Wall that needs to come down" and Mr. Bush's support "is the answer to my prayers," she said.

Most important of all, though, is that a bunkered White House symbolizes something far more frightening than a pack of armed federal police, and that is a cowering republic. That is why the Republican Party has placed a high priority on reopening Pennsylvania Avenue. That is why it must be reopened.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide