EVERYONE who has a neighbor with a noisy radio will cheer the admirable secretary of commerce, Malcolm Baldrige. He went across the street and made the neighbor--the National Park Service--turn the thing down. With that, Mr. Baldrige struck a blow for decency, decorum and proper neighborhood standards.
Mr. Baldrige does not always see certain matters of trade policy, or government reorganization, as clearly as he might. But on the decible question he is totally reliable, a great servant of the Republic, and a model to us all. He didn't punch anybody. There was no altercation, despite the great provocation. It was not necessary to call the police. He simply made them turn the volume down.
The racket came from a bandstand where, under the auspices of the Park Service, bands and singers and whatnot have been performing for the tourists waiting for their turns to go through the White House. True, it's a long and hot wait. Also true, most of the music is admirable. But is there nobody in this country who still knows how to produce music without massive electronic amplification? Perhaps some of the audience said that they couldn't hear. They could have moved closer to the stage. But the Park Service, true children of their culture, responded instead by turning up the volume to a point at which it was impossible to hear a conversation on the west side of the Commerce building, the side on which Mr. Baldrige sits.
He says that when Japanese trade negotiators came to discuss serious matters with him, they couldn't hear each other. Mutual inaudibility has characterized the trade talks with the Japanese for some time. It was not previously understood that the blame lay with the Park Service. Now the country can look forward to better progress in the talks, in the absence of window-rattling country music.
You can rest assured that no windows rattled and no conversations were disrupted in the quarters of Mr. Baldrige's neighbor to the northwest in the White House. Do you doubt that the loudspeakers were carefully positioned to avoid any offense there? The Park Service is careful about matters of rank. Mr. Baldrige has struck a blow for the little guy. He has forced the Park Service to acknowledge that even secretaries of commerce have rights too.
As for any disgruntled tourists, the Park Service can explain to them that not everybody in Washington is on vacation. There are people in those big gray buildings, and some them have work to do. Nobody minds a little music. It's the amplifier that's the public nuisance.