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Native Intelligence
Thank you, President Bush
(Published January 24, 2005)

By DIANA WINTHROP

Thank you, President Bush.

I can't believe I feel the need to utter those words, but "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

After enduring weeks of inconvenience that were topped off by the transformation of the District into "Beirut on the Potomac," George W. Bush has done the unthinkable: he has advanced the cause of voting representation for the District more than any previous Democratic or Republican president and he hasn't a clue.

It was just a short statement issued by an administration spokesman that reversed a historical precedent. D.C. would, for the first time, have to foot the bill to the tune of roughly $12 million to $15 million for the cost of police overtime and other security-related expenses for the presidential inauguration.

At first glance it looked like another "frat boy payback" from this President Bush, who has never quite grasped the concept of serving as president of all the people. Instead, Bush has turned his form of partisanship into high art. Initially, it looked like Bush was "sticking it to D.C." because we vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, but my assessment quickly changed when the news of the president's action reverberated nationwide.

I don't mean 30 seconds on the nightly news. The story was carried not only in major newspapers nationwide but even in small town papers. Friends, family members and even former colleagues (including some Bush supporters) wrote or called me to express their outrage. It was the unfairness that struck a chord with all kinds of Americans. They may not know the real D.C. history of disenfranchisement they tend to remember what they heard as jokes on late-night shows but they knew that taxpayers living in the nation's capital should not be stuck with the bill for a national celebration.

The media, rightly or wrongly, is routinely criticized for poor or inaccurate coverage, but this time the press did a really good thing for D.C. In all of the years of fighting for D.C. voting rights from the days of Julius Hobson to the silly actions of statehood advocates whose arrests at the Capitol garner nary a story after the initial event nor educate an uninformed public, this time the message was heard.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, "shadow" senators Paul Strauss and Florence Pendleton, and "shadow" representative Ray Browne should capitalize on the timing of this rare gift the President has given us by driving home the unequal treatment of D.C. residents among U.S. citizens. Don't squander the moment.

***

I made a commitment to start the New Year writing this column without so many complaints about Mayor Anthony Williams and his administration, but it is just too hard. This will make it 2 for 2.

Mayor Williams touts how he has made D.C. a wonderful place to visit and a wonderful place to live, but his administration seems to be incapable of removing outdated campaign posters that are displayed higher than 6 feet above ground. Apparently his "clean streets initiative" under which old posters are supposed to be removed and the offending candidates fined for failing to take them down is only applicable if the offending campaigns have short volunteers.

It is slightly irritating that after last September's primary election, the D.C. Democratic State Committee slate headed by now-ousted A. Scott Bolden did not remove its signs from whole sections of the city. Maybe we should praise them for contracting with a printer who made such indestructible signs. Those plastic-coated signs never buckled in the rain or, now, the snow. Harold Brazil's smile still seems omnipresent on high-hanging posters, as well, despite his trouncing in the September primary by eventual at-large council winner Kwame Brown.

I still can't figure out how short campaign volunteers got those signs placed on high wires unless they contracted with a company to hang them. Of course, that means they could have made sure their contractor removed them, too.

And while I have praised President Bush for helping us in our voting rights fight, I am tired of seeing Bush/Cheney campaign posters along D.C. streets. Come on, Mr. Mayor. Don't leave the city for another out-of-town trip without making sure that the rest of us don't have to look at those signs for another four years.

***

Diana Winthrop is a native Washingtonian. Contact her at diana@thecommondenominator.com.

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator