St. Elizabeth’s is a mental institution. It was created in 1852 by Congress to provide care for the indigent mentally ill residents of the District of Columbia and members of the armed forces. Before it finally closed its doors forever in the 1980’s, it housed a number of well-known individuals, including presidential assassin Charles J. Guiteau, who killed James Garfield, and would-be presidential assassins, Richard Lawrence and John Hinckley, Jr., who tried to kill Andrew Jackson and Ronald Reagan respectively.
As a madhouse, it is perhaps particularly appropriate, then, that St. Elizabeth’s is the site of one of the greatest cases of governmental excess and waste in recent memory.
In the aftermath of 9/11 a great deal of time was spent mulling over what had gone wrong and searching for answers as to how to prevent such a catastrophe from ever happening again. In retrospect, the answers did not seem so hard to find. Al Qaeda had been telling everyone who would listen that they were at war with the United States for years. They had blown up two of our embassies in East Africa. They had attacked and come very close to sinking a US warship. Yet, both the Clinton and Bush administrations had failed to take action and shoot back. The problem was allowed to fester. If there was a lesson in that it was that Presidents needed to exercise leadership and that when you are being attacked you should defend yourself.
Read the rest of this commentary here.