- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

Washington remains open to tourists, according to Mayor Anthony A. Williams.
That is the political equivalent of pleading, in the clutches of a somber climate.
The "open" sign, of course, comes with a series of qualifiers.
It depends on a number things, including the next person on a tractor with an important political message to deliver.
The last one, a farmer from North Carolina, ended up in a pond just off Constitution Avenue on the Mall. That part of the city was not open to anyone, except to various law enforcement authorities, until the man surrendered yesterday.
His message to the masses: See how easy it is to shut down Constitution Avenue and mess up everyone's commute.
Not to question those in charge of security or those who like to pass out tickets, but how does a person in a tractor pulling a Jeep and a trailer along Constitution Avenue just before noon on a Monday not attract an official inquiry from someone?
A tractor motoring on Constitution Avenue is not exactly an everyday occurrence.
If most Washingtonians saw a person on a tractor on Constitution Avenue, they would say, "Hmm. That's odd. Wonder if that person has a permit to drive a tractor in the city."
What is he going to do, possibly plow the lawn around the Washington Monument and plant tobacco?
Washington, alas, beckons all kinds, the camera-toting innocent, as well as the tractor-propelled unstable.
The terrorists living among us pose a different challenge to those in charge of homeland security.
Watch yourself out there. These are uncertain times.
We are up against the liberation effort in Iraq, another Code Orange terror alert and a shaky economy.
The crazies are predisposed to have an apocalyptic vision after connecting the dots. The milder weather helps, too. The tractor man probably would not have made his pilgrimage to the pond after the Presidents Day snowstorm.
The good intentions of the mayor aside, the official seal of Washington has come to be a bull's-eye.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Charles H. Ramsey has a plan in place in the likely event that the professional anti-war protesters feel another urge to be heard in our environs. They want to give U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix a chance, while the Bush administration is inclined to give mass desertions in Iraq a chance.
Chief Ramsey's plan is not apt to include hogtying the rabble-rousers who sometimes confuse free speech with public mayhem.
Chief Ramsey is one of the best at handling the frothing-at-the-mouth types, perhaps because he gets a lot of practice with them.
A charge of police excessiveness, made by a well-protected D.C. Council member last month, is itself excessive, considering the clientele and the thankless assignment before Chief Ramsey and the Metropolitan Police Department.
The sympathy goes to the police, all of whom have better things to do than to monitor the mealy-mouthed. The latter are the first to whine if the thermostat in their jail cell is not set just right. It is not much of a life, being a professional protester, but it beats being Martin Sheen.
By the way, the television president this week took a turn in the Los Angeles Times, which confirms his status as the leading Renaissance man of the new millennium. He is an artist, foreign-policy expert, pundit and editorial writer who used to sleep on Washington's grates.
The Bush administration, as usual, is urging Americans to go about their business; however, that business has come to be defined since the atrocities of September 11. The attack on the Pentagon was the first of several jolts to Washington's equilibrium. It was soon followed by the anthrax strike and then the warped actions of snipers last fall.
Now Washington is waiting for the shooting to commence in a faraway land.
It is in this tenuous environment that the good mayor labors. He has a budget gap on one corner of his desk and the hard-hit tourism industry on another. The pending developments overseas are threatening to overtake the Cherry Blossom Festival.
The tattered welcome mat is out anyway.
Please come to Washington. We are not the nation's capital for nothing. We have the buildings and monuments to prove it. Check out the sights. Sleep in the comfort of our four-star hotels. Dine at one of our many fine restaurants. Enjoy yourself.
As committed as our good mayor is, he just might give visitors a personal tour of his favorite spots in the city.

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