The Nuclear Option: Can’t Citizens Walk Toward the Capitol Without Having to Fear for Their Lives?


Spring breeeeeeaaaaaaakkkkkkkkk!

It’s that time of year when college kids in flip-flops hit the sandy beaches of cheesy Mexican resorts and party till the break of dawn, shimmying and jiggling and drinking florescent tequila shots from unknown belly buttons.

Here in your nation’s capital, it is really no different. Except the innocent taxpayers who come here are generally sober and bring their children in tow to see “representative democracy” in action. But they leave with the exact same wretched hangover — as well as a few other maladies that will probably never get cleared up.

Unlike Cancun, the most libidinous spring breakers here in the seat of your federal government hide their flip-flops (could be used against them in the next campaign) in favor of wingtip shoes and business suits. But their spending habits, judgment and concern for others is all about the same.

There is no more obscene display of this political debauchery than what you see in a quick stroll around the U.S. Capitol.

Originally designed by the founders as “the People’s house,” the Capitol has become a monument to politicians and their unfettered gluttony and insatiable appetite for undeserved self-importance. The great, white-domed behemoth has become a fortress of greed, ineptitude and blind power that despotic regimes around the world would kill for.

All of this is pretty stunning considering the U.S. Capitol was intended to house the branch of government that was supposed to be most directly and immediately answerable to the American voters and taxpayers who pay for every last dime of this whole game of charades.

Today, an American citizen would very likely be shot dead before he could walk up off the street and simply place the palm of his hand against the building he owns, pays to heat and that — supposedly — works for him. Perhaps a voter just might be able to lay a hand on the East Front wall near one of the guard shacks, but throngs of guards would be on him within seconds.

Today, citizens are permitted to sit on some of the lower steps on the East Front, but they are routinely shooed away by armed guards without explanation.

As for the grand West Front, forget about it. Anyone attempting to mount those great marble stairs for a look down the majestic National Mall and Lincoln Memorial will be met by guards carrying machine guns.

Used to be you could walk right up the West Front step to the building and sit down and soak up all the free sun you wanted in the freest country on earth. Today, everybody is assumed to be carrying backpack bombs.

You would think that even in these dangerous times that a big advantage to having stone walls 4 feet thick is that at least the innocent American taxpayer could be trusted to stand around the West Front of the U.S. Capitol without sparking a Code Orange terror alert.

And Lord forbid if you showed up after a snowfall and your children wanted to sled down the great hill or have a snowball fight. The full force of the U.S. Capitol Police will come down on your children and their sleds and all their terroristic threats, as was widely and repeatedly reported all winter long in the local press.

Cannot be too safe these days.

Meanwhile, protection for the other two branches of government reveals what a distorted, perverted leviathan the federal government has become.

The White House is now ringed with a tall fence, bike racks and the most sophisticated home security system on the planet. Yet drones, crazy people, unwanted socialites and drunk Secret Service agents seem to have no problem whatsoever stumbling onto the premises whenever the mood hits them.

Over at the Supreme Court — by far the most remote branch of the federal government, furthest removed from the individual citizen — the judicial branch is protected by a few mannerly guards. On any given day, the innocent, tax-paying American citizen can march unmolested up the grand steps and mingle among the towering columns. He can run his hands up the flutes without setting off alarms. He can inspect the great bronze doors from inches away.

He can close his eyes for a moment and dream of a day before the sprawling Capitol complex across the street was taken over by Bureaucrats Gone Wild and all their kleptocratic spending orgies.

Charles Hurt can be reached at, and on Twitter at @charleshurt.