We have been all too keenly aware that there will be alterations to
our way of life, and as every day passes, we see the tangible results of
those changes. Though at first blush it may not seem like a tremendous
sacrifice, the White House has canceled all holiday tours of 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue for the first time since the end of World War II.
People are no doubt willing to sacrifice for the sake of security, but
we should be vigilant to make sure we are not going too far. The best
thumb in the terrorists' eye is to carry on with as much regularity as
possible, while still safeguarding ourselves and our institutions. In
closing the White House to the public, President Bush missed a golden
opportunity to highlight our defiance and determination.
What characteristics in perilous times make great leaders great?
Courage, strength, perseverance, and an overriding faith in the justness
of the cause and the inevitability of the outcome. Like FDR and Winston
Churchill, Bush has these qualities and has contributed to the bustling
confidence and pride in America. But he's misguided in canceling the
holiday tours. Though Bush rightly has told the nation to return to
"normalcy" and that "we are open for business," his action here belies
his expressed sentiments.
As anyone who has flown since September 11th can attest, we are living
in a vastly different world. And in airports, the heightened security
makes sense-a lot of sense. But many of the protective actions taken or
contemplated would do little more than serve as a tonic for our fears.
We need to carefully weigh and balance each new step we take, because
adding security measures for the mere sake of having them is not just
silly, it's destructive.
In this war on terrorism, we are fighting not just for our principles,
but our very way of life. As trivial as it sounds, part of the uniquely
American lifestyle is the freedom we enjoy in public places, such as the
ability to see all aspects of our government close at hand. To curtail
this freedom needlessly is harmful to our spirits and will invariably
chip away at the unyielding optimism we need to prevail.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich gave a recent speech in
which he stated, "the security people have for a decade wanted to make
the (U.S.) Capitol a fortress." Such measures were blocked because
Congress realized the devastating symbolic impact of ensconcing the seat
of our national government. Critics would argue that the times dictate
the end of our unparalleled openness. Nothing could be further from the
truth. What we need most now is bold leadership setting the example for
returning to our everyday lives, as best we can in the new reality.
Which brings us back to the holiday tours of the White House. In
every year since the end of the Second World War, anyone willing to
weather sometimes blistering cold nights was guaranteed the opportunity
to view the White House decked out in its wonderful seasonal splendor.
As with all security measures, we need to ask: is this truly
necessary? Depends on whom you ask. The Secret Service, which likely
won't be satisfied until Bush is the President in the plastic bubble, is
undoubtedly behind the canceled tours and must feel the move is
imperative. But one has to wonder that with all the high-tech gadgets
at their disposal, how could the White House not be kept safe? After
all, if the most highly trained bodyguards in the world can't safeguard
the President's home and office, how are any of us supposed to feel
On September 11th, Bush overruled the Secret Service when they wanted
to keep the President away from Washington. He should do so again with
the holiday tours of the White House to show that we are not afraid.