Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How About a Virtual White House?

Last week’s White House fence-jumper naturally is leading to more White House fences, plus a plan to start screening tourists blocks away from the executive mansion. I say “naturally” because this sort of action-overreaction pattern is all-pervasive in the nation’s capital.  

American policy-making today is completely reactive, and only rarely proactive, in nature. We lurch from incident to incident, “crisis” to “crisis,” overreacting to relative minutia (which is blown into media-generated maelstroms) while the big problems, and the genuine threats, go largely ignored. While we’re beefing-up the number of TSA shoe-scanners at airports, in response to a much-lessened menace, and our Secretary of Stagecraft is calling “climate change” the biggest national security threat, ISIS is plotting (and then executing) the takeover of Iraq, largely outside public notice. It’s only when the beheadings begin that a distracted public tunes-in and our feckless leaders are forced into “action,” such as it is.          

Every Secret Service screw-up thus becomes an excuse to push the rabble further back, to “tighten security,” to turn the White House into even more of a fortress. I was living in D.C. back when Bill Clinton (supposedly) was convinced to close-off Pennsylvania Avenue to vehicular traffic, following a number of incidents that made the Service nervous. This brought even greater gridlock to downtown Washington and made my car commute even more impossible, but obviously did little to address the bigger vulnerability posed by fence-jumpers. A “CAT squad” was created in response to the fence-jumping threat, but obviously fell down on the job last week. 

I have a modest proposal that could greatly reduce the future risk of Secret Service embarrassments (since that’s really all the latest security reviews and changes are designed to do): I call it the Virtual White House. We live in a “virtual age,” so why not just wall-off the White House completely and project a pleasing image of the building onto the wall? Tourists could pose in front of the mirage for Facebook-posting purposes, before moving on to hit other Washington highlights. 

A “Virtual White House” should be good enough for people satisfied with virtual liberty, virtual justice and virtual leadership.

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