Monday, November 26, 2001

Don’t plan to tour the White House or sneak a peek at Christmas ceremonies, because you cannot. You’ll have to catch both on the tube of course, that’s only if the media pass security inspection. It seems the president’s bogeymongers, who were already suspicious of their own shadows, are equally frightened of schoolchildren and potential threats. They are proving as they did during the Clinton reign, when they barricaded Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House that their wish is to keep the public as far away as possible from all things presidential and congressional.

What’s going on here? Hypocrisy and paranoia, that’s what. On the one hand, Mr. Bush and Congress wants us to believe that airport security is better off in the hands of federal workers. On the other, federal employees don’t believe they can effectively secure the White House and other federal institutions so they resort to plan B and keep us out. While Mr. Bush encourages us in a spanking new ad for the Travel Industry Association of America a campaign that began Thanksgiving eve to join our families and see America, it’s obvious that he does not mean all of America. Some places are out of bounds.

Essentially, America’s capital city has become a closed society. The streets within walking distance of the White House, Capitol, Senate and House office buildings are closed. Joggers and National Mall-walkers are cut off. Federal office buildings are barricaded by law-enforcement vehicles and huge cement planterns. Museums and other cultural institutions are urged to lock themselves in or is it shut us out?

Enough is enough. Heightened homeland security such as checkpoints at certain buildings and the prohibition on drugs, weapons, backpacks and the like is one thing. Reasonable people expected beefed-up street police patrols, something that, interestingly, hasn’t even occurred. What has happened, though, is that Mr. Bush and Congress have given in to the fear they are warning the rest of us against. Indeed, we may be winning the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, but we are surely handing a great victory to the terrorists here at home.

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