Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 11/6/08

Thinking, or lackthereof, behind Metro searches

Now that America has gone to the polls, the post-election period will focus increasingly on the District.

Will emboldened Democrats, savoring congressional victories that even Republicans were predicting, want to rush back to town with new stimulus legislation?

Will President Bush invite the winner to the White House to start getting up to speed on the continuing economic crisis?

There’s no question that the Secret Service will begin ramping up security plans for the Inaugural week of festivities. The Jan. 20 ceremony will be on a Tuesday. The days leading up to the Inauguration will include a crush of activities.

On a more mundane level, the "for sale" and "for rent" signs will start appearing as the congressional losers and retiring members scatter their staffs and Bush administration political appointees speed up their exits (which would occur under either John McCain or Barack Obama, just more so with the latter).

It won’t be safe to walk the halls of Congress; even taking into account only the retiring members, there will be so many moving carts around that you’ll be lucky not to be run over.

And we don’t even want to talk about the cost of all that new Capitol Hill stationary -- the new subcommittee chairman of the this-or-that committee will have to be properly listed.

But look at it this way: All this upheaval, and the millions of dollars spent on it, is kind of our own economic-stimulus package here in the nation’s capital.

So let the apple-cart turnover begin!

  • D.C. Electors

The surest sure thing in the world was that the District would vote overwhelmingly for Democrat Barack Obama.

But who are the official electors who will cast the city’s three votes?

David Meadows, spokesperson for the D.C. Democratic Party, says they are Council Chairman Vincent Gray and longtime Democratic activists Marilyn Tyler Brown and Jerry Cooper.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if they refused to cast their ballots because District citizens don’t have voting rights in Congress? Don’t expect it to happen, but it would be dramatic if the national election results were so close that three votes could make a difference.

The late Barbara Lett-Simmons in 2000 refused to cast her electoral vote in the Bush-Gore race. It was a protest about voting rights, but it got very little attention. If all three electors don’t participate, then it won’t be worth anything.

  • No Vote For Pop

Republican nominee for shadow senator Nelson Rimensnyder was incensed on Monday before the election. He called to say that his son, who is about to ship out to Iraq, requested an absentee ballot. But when the ballot came, it was for only the federal presidential election, not the local races that included his dad.

“He wants to vote for his father,” Rimensnyder said. “He couldn’t.” The son sent in the limited ballot, but his father wants to know what happened.

We’ve asked, but haven’t heard yet.

  • Metro Bag Man?

We’re still trying to figure out how Metro intends to protect us from terrorists. It announced a plan to use a few officers to occasionally search the handbags and packages of passengers. Anyone who declines to be searched won’t be allowed in the system, Metro says.

That’s not really true. Say you’re downtown at Metro Center and you don’t want to be searched. You can simply walk a block or two in any direction and enter through another station. Metro does not and will not have all 86 stations covered.

Millions ride Metro. The plan sounds like a curious interruption of the public’s right to peaceably travel in the city, never mind search-and-seizure issues. It’s another reason we created the word “securicrat” to describe the bureaucratic decisions that seem to drive our “security” efforts.

Sam Smith, editor of the online Progressive Review, and Robert Thompson, The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock,” have both raised practical, legal and constitutional issues about all this.

Imagine a terrorist intent on doing deadly harm. What are the chances he or she would be stopped by a police officer doing random searches? You’d have better odds playing the lottery.

Once again, we loosely quote something attributed to Benjamin Franklin: Those who would give up liberty in the name of freedom deserve neither.  (Could anyone direct us to the specific quote? We’re sure we’ll be using it again.)

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