Equal Rights for the Sleazebucket Too

"Bob Levey speaking."

"Bob, this is one of your loyal readers out in Prince George's County."

"Good morning, loyal reader. Always good to hear from people like you. I need as many loyal readers as I can get."

"Well, thanks, but you may not feel that way in about five minutes. I need some help that might make your liberal blood run cold."

"Last time I checked, loyal reader, my blood was several things: red, wet, thick and A-positive. But it didn't carry a political label."

"We'll see about that. You ever been to Lafayette Park?"

"Sure. Hundreds of times. I like to walk through there at lunchtime and eavesdrop on the tourists. You can get a real good fix on how newcomers see the city."

"That's exactly what I'm calling about. My cousin and his family came to visit from Goshen, Indiana. They were walking through Lafayette Park and one of those political demonstrators started to hassle them."

"What do you mean by 'hassle'?"

"He started raving about how the Lord would strike everyone on the planet dead if we didn't renounce nuclear war right that second. The guy looked like a sleazebucket too. Wore rags and floppy old sneakers and a scuzzy sandwich board with some slogans on it. And he smelled like a garbage can. My cousin got his kids out of there as fast as their legs could carry them."

"My liberal blood isn't running cold yet."

"It's about to. When my cousin came back to my place for dinner that night, he asked why something can't be done to remove these people from public property, especially right across the street from the White House. He said he pays his taxes, and he damn sure doesn't want them going to provide a place for some crazy person wearing a sandwich board to harangue everyone who passes by."

"But, ma'am, Lafayette Park is public property for the entire public, including guys in sandwich boards. Your relatives are not the only Americans who have rights."

"Aha! I knew your liberal leanings would trap you sooner or later!"

"Trap me? All I said is that every American deserves equal protection under the Constitution. You ever hear of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly? There's nothing the slightest bit liberal about that."

"Bob, think about it a minute. We pay all that money to all those Park Police officers. All they do is hang around Lafayette Park—when they bother to show up at all. But who are they protecting from whom? The decent people need to be protected from the lunatics, not the other way around."

"Everybody needs protection. Everybody deserves protection. Everybody is entitled to equal protection."

"Come on, Bob. We're talking about a nice, clean family from Indiana, with two kids who've been hearing about the Nation's Capital all their lives. They finally come here and what do they see? Some guy who's abusing his privileges."

"Are you telling me there's no one in Indiana who smells? Are you saying there's no one in Indiana who has ever demonstrated against nuclear war?"

"That's not the point, Bob. The point is, this is the Nation's Capital, and things should be different here. We need to put our best foot forward, especially when it comes to tourists. They're our lifeblood. Or haven't you heard?"

"Of course I've heard. But there's nothing in the Constitution that gives the tourism industry a right to make a living."

"There should be."

"What do you want to do, ma'am? Call out the 82nd Airborne to sweep Lafayette Park clean every night?"

"No, I want the Park Police to sweep it every night."

"On what grounds?"

"On the grounds that these demonstrators are unsightly and they're interfering with the rights of tourists."

"Don't you see where that logic leads? Next you'll want the Park Police to bust some congressman if he shows up for work in an ugly tie."

"Bob, what I know is that my cousin went back to Indiana over the weekend saying he's never coming here again, and he'll never allow his kids to come back here until they're over 21."

"I don't feel good about that, believe me. But your cousin has a misguided view of Washington. This isn't Disneyland. It's the ninth largest city in the country, with all the problems that implies. Didn't your cousin's family visit the Capitol and the rest of the sights while they were here?"


"Did they enjoy it?"

"Very much."

"Isn't that a lot more significant than what one demented demonstrator said to them?"