Washington, we've been told for years, doesn't understand the rest of the country. The bureaucracy is inhuman, cold, insensitive to the needs of the individual. That, say spolkesmen for the Reagan adminstration, is the only thing Jimmy Carter was right about. He just didn't take it far enough.
What the Carter people didn't understand was that the alienation of Washington is as much as esthetic problem as a political one. In Washington, the design of the city and its architecture are vast, formal and unrelated to the rest of the nation, say Reagan staffers, who point to such California landmarks as Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, Venice and Burbank as examples of design that "reflects the mood of the country," and is "fun." In keeping with the president's mandate to bring Washington to the people and the people to Washington, a presidential commission acronymed BUTT (for "Bring Us Together Today") has just revealed its plan to redesign the nation's capital.
Like Virginians (of all parties) summoning the ghost of Thomas Jefferson, the president's commission wished to go back to the original source of Washington's design, the previously ignored notes of Pierre L'Enfant, who was fired by George Washington after less than a year of working on plans for the federal city. Combing the dusty corners of the National Archives, commission members discovered that L'Enfant had in fact intended for the Mall to be a quarter of a mile long rather than its present mile and a quarter. Angry at having been fired, L'Enfant never acknowledged that an error in the Mall's execution has been made (a musty document discovered in the archives is said to read in L'Enfant's handwriting, "Serves les petits blanquety-blancs right!"). In the Frenchman's original plan, the Washington Monument, the White House and the Jefferson Memorial were supposed to be on a central axis and located at close proximity so that each would have an unobstructed view of the other. Such a view is impossible at the present scale.
Taking this newly revealed information as an omen, the commission, in its report entitled Washington, D.C.: The Final Solution, has proposed a sweeping facelift for the capital, including larger-than-life topiary statues of the presidents along Pennsylvania Avenue, a feature reminiscent of 18th century French gardens and one which, the report says, "M. L'Enfant would certainly have approved." Another plan calls for a national farm to be located at the Capitol end of the Mall. The farm will provide food for government cafeterias and "will serve to remind Washington of the country's agricultural heritage."
Most startling, however, is the commission's proposal to "once and for all create one nation undivided, by linking Washington with the rest of the country by means of a National Mall that will extend from sea to shining sea. The new mall will pass through Washington to Vincennes, Ind., and under St,. Louis' Gateway Arch, then continue through amber waves of grain, across the fruited plains and on to the majestic purple mountains and the Pacific. In a further move toward "decentralization," the commission suggests the obelisks cloned from the Washington Monument be placed every 300 to 500 yards along the route.
A commission spokesman has denied that the proposed "Tower of Defense, and "Salt XV Circle" are attempts to enlist the much-needed support of the Defense Department, the only government department with funding extensive enough to be diverted to the project.
"It'll cost a bundle," admitted OMB chief David Stockman, "but it's worth every penny to bring the nation together. A coast-to-coast mall sure beats a coast-to-coast soup line."