WASHINGTON---Susan and I visited the Pentagon yesterday afternoon. The humility of Independence Hall and Mount Vernon, compared to the ostentation of Versailles and other European palaces, has always impressed us. The Pentagon, while huge, is also just-the-facts-ma'am humble, particularly along the utilitarian Army corridors. Even portraits of leading generals show less preening now than in the late 19th century, when some American leaders took to dressing like European peacocks.
We saw the chapel with photos of Pentagon personnel who died on Sept. 11 and the correspondents' corridor with magazine covers and newspaper headlines from eras when seldom was heard a discouraging journalistic word regarding the military. Recent reporting is more disparaging, of course, and as one who joined in the 1960s/'70s catcalls I want to apologize and note that I don't mind at all paying taxes to support the armed forces, as I don't mind paying for police and firefighters. We need them.
And we also need people like the WORLD readers who joined us at the Washington Nationals ballpark last night. Perfect weather, and big-headed mascot figures of George, Thomas, Abe, and Teddy chased each other around the field. The home team won, 4-2---but what's home? Washington draws so many people from all over that the rare successes of the visiting Pirates also drew whoops and cheers from substantial numbers.
That's typical---I'm told that good visiting teams draw as many cheers as the locals. That probably always has been a morale-buster for Washington ballplayers, which may be one reason why Washington teams were regularly "first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League"---and now in the National League. Of course, mediocrity in pitching has had something to do with it, and a sensational rookie, Stephen Strasburg, may change that.
Two of those who sat with us work at the Pentagon, and what I draw from their comments is that the home team is not winning. Pentagon folks are concerned about lack of support, politicization of promotions near the top, irresponsible timetables in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the problems that will result if Congress repeals "don't ask, don't tell." It's one thing for European-style animosity against the military to flare up in venues like Harvard Law School. It's something different when that animus is present in the White House and the Supreme Court.
Another WORLD reader (wow, our subscribers are impressive) gave me some lowdown on the immigration debate from the INS perspective---but more on that another day, as it's time to hit the road to Cincinnati.