(Fred Weinberg/The Penny Press) – I was in Washington, DC, last week for a little less than 24 hours, and I need to tell you that much of what is wrong with our nation is blatently on display everywhere you look.
The problem with DC is pretentiousness.
There are several definitions of that word.
1) Acting as though more important or special than is warranted, or appearing to have an unrealistically high self-image.
2) Extravagantly and consciously showy or glamorous.
Most of them seem to fit.
I have no problem with the President of the United States and the Vice President being flown around in what we colloquially refer to as Air Force One and Air Force Two. Because when the Air Force 747, which is tastefully painted with the words “United States of America” on the fuselage pulls up on the tarmac in Rome or Tel Aviv or Moscow, it is a serious projection of what we mean to the rest the world—even if it is carrying Barack Obama or Joe Biden.
But when the Speaker of the House has a five-car, Mike Tyson-style entourage to go five blocks from his capital office to the Republican National Committee building, flashing lights and all, something is wrong.
John Boehner cannot walk five freakin’ blocks? He and his predecessor seem to have forgotten that they’re just one of 435 people who were sent to Washington by their neighbors to handle the people’s business. They are NOT any more or less important than anybody who voted for them.
Now they might give lip service to that concept, but let me tell you they do NOT act that way. Especially when they are in DC and you are back home. Neither do cabinet secretaries or many senior staff people. And many of these people NEVER come home when they leave office.
They get to thinking that somehow they are important.
When you are waiting on the tarmac to take off from Reagan National Airport for an extra 15 minutes because there is some “special activity” (read that some VIP aircraft jumping the line to get to the runway), you realize that you can’t even leave the nation’s capital without getting a dose.
What’s the result of all this pretentiousness?
A congressional approval rating right around 12 per cent. Or, put another way, even their mothers don’t like them.
This nation is not a police state. We don’t have cops on every corner, we don’t audit every tax return.
What we have is a citizenry with an abiding respect for the rule of law based almost entirely on voluntarily compliance. When people come here from other parts of the world, they are amazed at the lack of police presence here.
What allows us to live like that is respect. That respect has been earned by leaders over more than two centuries.
But it doesn’t take much to lose it.
You can fly an airliner into the Pentagon and it won’t do as much damage to our democracy as the concept that the Speaker of the House needs to have a five car entourage to move five blocks.
Nobody loves the history of Washington DC as much as I. But can you explain why the Library of Congress has anti-riot, anti bomb barriers at the entrance to the parking lot? I can. They had some extra money in their budget. Because there is no other logical explanation. I mean, what demented meth head terrorist is going to blow up the Library of Congress?
Washington is out of control.
The political consultants who have offices on the lettered streets (I Street, K Street, etc.) have a word for that. Optics.
The optics of official Washington are so bad that if Nikon or Canon made them they’d go out of business
Any CEO who acted like the children in Congress and the Executive branch would be stripped of his clout immediately by his board.
In the case of these clowns, that board is you and I.