Let's get down to the important question about the future of National Airport. That is, not who could or should improve it but where members of Congress should park, for free. The answer is: closer to the main terminal than diplomats or Supreme Court justices, not to mention your average Joe and Joanne. Or so asserts Rep. Phil Crane, a Republican from Illinois, and 37 other members of Congress, Democratic and Republican.

National's VIP parking lot has about 100 spaces. Congress alone has about 535 members. Obviously, overflow occurs, in which case the designated VIPs may park in public spaces for free. On any given day, anybody's chances of finding an empty public space within sight, much less a sprint, of the main terminal are slim. But congressmen aren't just anybody, assert Rep. Crane et al. Their schedules, what with district visits, floor votes and such, are more harried and hectic, less amenable to advance planning than, say, a justice's or an attach,e's, and certainly than a salesman's. Members of Congress "truly need the ready access to parking," the 38 claimed in a September letter to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Justices and diplomats disagree, as the FAA duly advised Crane earlier this month. Whereupon Crane wanted to know why the FAA "chose to poll the State Department" and consult Chief Justice Burger when a poll of Congress would have shown "overwhelming" support for making the VIP lot Congress' exclusive preserve. "The FAA gets appropriations annually," Crane told The Washington Post. "They make representations before the Public Works Committee and the Appropriations Committee, not the State Department."

Phil Crane, Very Indignant Politician, is up to his neck in three Very Iffy Propositions. One: that members of Congress particularly should be exempt from the mess they have helped make of National Airport. Two: that this questionable assertion qualifies members of Congress as a new subgroup of the truly needy.

Three: that Congress should consider holding hostage to their very own parking lot funds required for the operation and safety of Americans' -- all Americans' -- air travel.

All of which may confirm for some constituents what they suspected all along: Congress, that steering force of the nation, not only can't find its way around a parking lot; its members also want to spare only themselves the National horror they themselves helped wrought. Rep. Crane, a conservative, professes no objection to transferring National Airport to a regional authority or, meantime, contracting with a private firm to manage and improve parking at National -- so long as parking for Congress is adequate and convenient. Also free.

The best way to end the dispute over who are the Very Important Persons most entitled to this Very Important Perk is to write R. I. P. to VIP right now. Let members of Congress, of the court and of the diplomatic corps pay their money and take their chances in the National maze. A true test of their mettle, that; and a true trudge in Everyman's shoes. Or let them catch a cab, ride the subway or designate a staffer as sometime chauffeur. Let them, in short, experience this broken system as the rest of us do, so it gets fixed not for some but for all.