A message to the farmers, from the "other" Washington.
You really did it to us yesterday.
You blocked traffic.You made people late for work. Caused some wrecks, and fights. You really did it to Washington.
Unfortunately, for you (the farmers) and us, you did it to the wrong Washington.
Everyday Washington, the bureaucrats' Washington, main street Washington, school kids Washington, all took it in the neck. But the politicians - the people the farmers are really after - watched it from helicopters, chauffeured limousines or on television.
Jimmy Carter, for instance, was not late for work because of the 14th Street bridge mess. Besides, if he wants to go somewhere all he has to do is call a helicopter.
Secretary Bob Bergland was 3,000 miles away from the traffic jam around his Agriculture Department. He was in Washington State, and missed Day One of the demonstrations. And you can bet that few cabinet members will be stuck in traffic for long as the demonstrations continue.
Most of political Washington was out of town, or still sipping coffee by the TV set, while farmers did their thing on the workaday stiffs who man government offices, run businesses, sell flowers, direct traffic, or put out fires.
Congress, you farmers ought to know, has something called the TWT Club. It stands for Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday. Those are the only three days many spend in Washington. The rest of the time a lot of them are back home, or somewhere other than here. The TWT Club members were unaffected by the Rte. 50 fiasco, or the Canal Road bottleneck.
One of Bob Bergland's lucky (and wise) secretaries missed the mess only by parking at New Carrollton and taking the Metro in. The staff of the House Agriculture Committee made it in by the 9 a.m. starting time. And a "very reliable" lady who always opens up the shop at 7:45 a.m. did so. But it wasn't easy.
Marilyn Landry of the Office of Personnel Management wasn't late because she was so early. She checked in at 6:20 a.m., and considers herself "lucky" at that.
An Interior Department official with an 8:30 a.m. meeting left his Fairlington Village home at 5 a.m. and just barely made his meeting on time.
Roger Miller with the Food and Drug Administration walked from his nearby Rockville home to his Rockville office. But hundreds of his commuter colleagues were late. And upset.
It was a mess. The Secret Service had to give a screaming motorcycle escort to some visiting Chinese diplomats so they could get down 16th Street while ordinary citizens, taxis and buses, waited.
Unfortunately for the farmers, and for us, the tractor people are making the same mistake other outsiders make about Washington. They confuse day-to day Washington, which is a lot like Omaha, Boston or Terre Haute, with the Washington of Capitol Hill, Georgetown and McLean.They forget that the truffles-for-lunch bunch is a minority here. It does not represent most of the people who live here.
It was not the typical Washingtonian who shafted the farmers last year with a phony farm bill. It was kept alive - by the politicians - on Capitol Hill only until the tractordrivers got tired or ran out of money, and went home. That was Congress and the White House, not us.
Pressure and confrontation may be the name of the game these days. But please, you farmers, learn whom to confront. And where best to apply the pressure. Making a Grade 4 Bureau of Mines clerk late for work is not going to win you parity.
Causing a drug store stockman, or a cafeteria cook to lose two hours of work - or maybe a job - isn't going to boost hog prices. Leaving an inner city maid stranded at a Bethesda bus stop in the cold will not raise wheat supports. You farmers may have the right idea, but you definitely have the wrong people by the galluses.
So today, if you are a farmer ready to block the road again, consider if the poor sap ahead of you in the beatup Pinto is really the cause of all your problems.
And, if you happen to be the poor sap in the beatup Pinto, whose way is blocked by a tractor roadblock, take comfort. The farmers really don't mean you any harm. It is just that they have you confused with the VIPs who will be sitting somewhere, even as you steam, freeze or run out of gas.They, the VIPs, will simply be wondering why common folks carry on so.