Bring Back White House Tours

March 11th, 2013

Most pundits guessed that President Obama would make certain that sequester cuts would be painful for the American people.  The thinking goes that only if the people truly suffered a bit would they burn up the phone lines to Capitol Hill demanding more government spending and even offering to open their wallets to any taxes necessary to stop the madness.

Republicans assumed the White House would stoop low to achieve their PR goals.  Assuring long lines at airport checkpoints and hours on the tarmac waiting for an air traffic controller to appear on duty were considered the most obvious targets.

So far, I haven’t heard of any airport issues out of the ordinary.  I fly quite often and the times I’ve been at the airport so far don’t appear unusual.

Could it be that the old tried and true ploy of making the people suffer a bit would not be employed by this White House?

Sadly, no.  Not only are they following that playbook but they’ve chosen a vehicle guaranteed to get the public going.  They’ve closed White House tours.

Funny, but the people they hurt the most with this are school groups visiting Washington D.C., and retired senior citizens taking in Washington landmarks.

Imagine if a Republican president had done this.  Immediately, the press would jump all over the nasty Republican for using children and the elderly as a prop for political gain.

In the eternal scheme of things, offering White House tours is not only a small part of the budget but it’s also a symbolic example of the freedom enjoyed by our citizens.  It also demonstrates the clear manner in which our country differs from others.

The White House is truly the “people’s house” as evidenced by citizens’ ability to visit and discover its history.  This isn’t Buckingham Palace which only opened to the public recently for a charge during brief periods each year.  This is the White House which President Andrew Jackson famously opened to the public following his inauguration as a symbolic gesture that this house belongs to the people.  Granted, those particular visitors trashed the place, but that’s an entirely different issue.  It’s thanks to those ill-mannered ancestors of Jackson’s time that visiting the White House today carries with it a certain expected amount of decorum, but that seems a small price to pay to visit and discover its history.

It’s telling that while the White House tours are closed, the Capitol Tours keep going.  Both these entities are subject to the sequester, but Congress evidently found a way to keep its doors open despite the budget cuts.

Years ago, Washington employed what was called the Washington Monument strategy to ward off budget cuts.  Basically, whenever government cuts were threatened, leaders sadly informed the public that these cuts would result in closing the Washington Monument to the public. That’s probably what would have happened this time around if Mother Nature hadn’t intervened and an earthquake closed the monument for repairs anyway.

Evidently, conducting White House tours is part of the Secret Service budget.  Doesn’t their budget also cover protecting the president during his golf outings and the cross country campaign on Air Force One he’s been taking to warn of impending doom associated with sequester?  I bet if Obama cut out all those side excursions, American schoolchildren could once again grace the halls of the White House.

Back in the day, citizens would consider closing the White House in this manner to be evidence of an imperial presidency.  If that’s what’s at work here, hopefully the next president will follow a more populist vision and exhibit wisdom by reopening the White House once again to the public.

It may adversely affect that president’s golf game, but in the scheme of things, it will be well worth it.