Keep the White House Drapes: Bring Back the Solar Panels

when the McCain campaign accused Barack Obama of "already measuring the
White House drapes." It was more false populism, suggesting that it was
the bi-racial son of a single mother who embodied a sense of entitlement,
instead of the admiral's son who couldn't remember how many houses he had. But
let's take McCain's challenge literally, and ask whether Obama needs to change
the White House drapes at all. Or the White House rug or furniture or decor,
all of which new presidents traditionally
when they move in. Obama could replace all this as expected, and no
one would deem it exceptional. But suppose instead that he took the opportunity
to break with tradition, and make a powerful symbolic stand by instead using
the already allocated money to bring back additional solar panels (Bush
actually brought
back some
in 2002 but more could be added), and make the White House more
energy efficient.

tough economic times, we're all going to have to make hard choices, so why not
begin with these symbols. Suppose Obama seized the moment by publicly saying
something like "I know the President or their spouse traditionally selects
a new rug and new decor. We're supposed to measure the White House drapes and
change them. But these are hard times, and we're going to be careful how we spend
the public's resources. So we're not going to redecorate the While House. We're
certainly going to do our best to reverse the past administration's failed
policies. But furniture is just furniture, and we aren't going to replace what
doesn't need to be replaced."

we are going to do," Obama could continue, "is to use some of the
money we saved to put more of the solar collectors back on the White House
roof, the successors of those Jimmy Carter installed when he initiated his
renewable energy programs. And we're going to build on efforts that go back to the Clinton years
and do everything we can to make the White House and all our Federal buildings
models of energy efficiency, because if they aren't, that's something we can
fix in a way that will not only help fight climate change, but will also pay
back our investment. Much as we'd love to redecorate, there are more important

would mark a new direction from trying to consume our way out of our every
predicament. After 9/11 my local Seattle
paper ran a letter which proclaimed. "Be a patriot. Go out to the mall and
buy a sofa." I have nothing against sofas, but all the sofas in the world
can't solve the problems that fed Bin Laden's murderous attack, and no matter
how lovely the new rug, drapes or sofa Barack and Michelle Obama might bring to
the White House, they won't shift us an inch from our economic freefall and our
despoliation of our planet But solar collectors and insulation can. They're a
core part of the solution. So why not start than at the top, with every
possible symbol, including those which promote the profoundly conservative
virtues of frugality. If Obama wants to really mark a presidential turning point,
I can't think of a better place to start.

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