There are cheaper and better ways to protect the Capitol than erecting a multimillion-dollar fence.
I gladly make myself available for exploring a number of solutions, but here I shall mention only one to show how attractive and inexpensive the work can be.
A 50-foot moat is dug around the great building, seven feet deep. A portcullis is installed at each cardinal point, cheaply manned by a mere handful of the guards that now litter the place.
Since only humans, not trucks, will enter the Capitol, the gates need not be particularly monumental. All that is needed is a pulley arrangement to raise the walkway over the moat. If the press, for example, should turn beastly about the House speaker, the press gate could be closed in a matter of seconds and reporters would be obliged to walk round to the general tourist gate where they could be hassled in a nice way: "Excuse me, sir, these credentials raise a question in my mind -- would you kindly wait yonder while I make a quick phone call."
Fortunately the Capitol is a sufficiently monumental edifice that the medieval device of portcullis and moat will be entirely appropriate.
The Capitol grounds need not be moated, fenced, mined or otherwise fancied up, but can be left open, as they are now.
The fence project, apart from costing entirely too much, also removes all parking on the Plaza, whereas my system would take less land and allow substantial parking and viewing space to remain. Then, since the moat would run rather close to the building, a great deal of the present wasted space west of the Capitol could be turned into a parking lot, tastefully landscaped and unobtrusive.
The point is, we do not need to protect all those acres of grass and trees, only the great building. If someone says armed bands might approach too closely with only a moat to separate them, I say that a mere iron fence will not stop armed bands anyway. Besides, the smaller the area to be protected, the more likely that protection will be effective. With the fence, however, it is certain that sooner or later a band of ruffians will break through a quarter-mile away from the building and the guard (presumably patrolling the fence) will be out for a muffin and milkshake at the time. This will not happen when the protected area and the protected access are at the very doors of the building itself.
Now we all remember with gratitude the kind gift of the Japanese emperor, the magnificent colored carp that were housed in the aquarium at the Commerce Department. Their pool was too shallow and far too small. With the moat several thousand of these gorgeous carp could be housed at no extra expense, and to the great delight of the public.
Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden at St. Louis, tells me the vast numbers of colored carp in a pool there have proved one of the greatest attractions of the city. Furthermore, corn can be sold (from vending machines) for feeding the carp, and considerable revenue may be realized.
Also, the machines could have labels -- CORN 25 CENTS. FEED THE BEAUTIFUL CARP. PROCEEDS FROM THIS MACHINE WILL RESTORE NANCY REAGAN'S OLD DRESSES, or something useful like that.
In addition, rhesus monkeys flourish on moated islands. Nothing in the world is more agreeable than watching these epicurean beasts swim out to get peanuts thrown into the moat. They would, of course, have housing within the Capitol, at ground level, and each monkey would have an identification tag to prevent confusion. There would be peanut machines. Here and there in the moat we would have little platforms, too slight to bear human weight, on which the monkeys could sun.sk SW
The moat plan would attract the public, not repel it. The government clearly wishes to keep the public as far away from any government building as possible, and to make access as troublesome as the bureaucratic mind can devise.
No. Let the public come to the seat of power. Let them flourish in the very shadow of the great Capitol. And as for crowd control, I think it apparent that if people can enjoy the carp and the monkeys, tossing corn and peanuts, and resting on benches on the spacious open grounds, hardly anybody will bother to enter the building itself.
But for those who must do business within the Capitol, and that includes me from time to time, I ask you if it would not be more agreeable to cross the walkway, enter the portcullis gate, hear the little bronze bells (rung when a person is admitted) than to peer at a distance through fretful iron and stand in lines with nothing whatever for diversion.
Consultants get millions for doing nothing. Here is a real idea, given free. It should be implemented.