Daniel Moynihan Place is set amid the much larger Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, which, at 1.9 million sq. ft., is one of the largest federal structures in our nation’s capital.
It was inexplicable to me that such a large complex would be associated with such an unrelenting critic of the federal government. But then again, it’s probably not more of a head-scratcher than the decision to name a national airport in that metro area after the President who fired air-traffic controllers after they went out on strike, then refused to rehire them.
Likewise, it seemed unexplainable that this particular of space within the complex would be named for the late U.S. Senator from New York, one of the most perceptive critics of Reagan’s policies in the White House.
But unlike many in Washington now, Senator Moynihan was not one to let politics become overly personal, or to let such ill feeling interfere with a larger objective. When Bill Clinton signed the legislation naming the building after Reagan 20 years ago Tuesday, the senator said the structure was "named for a great president and a good cause."
That statement might need some context, particularly since Moynihan continually assailed Reagan’s urban policies, signature tax cuts and "consuming obsession with the expansion of Communism – which is not in fact going on." By the time Clinton signed this legislation, however, Reagan had publicly disclosed his struggle with Alzheimer’s and the GOP, now in control of Capitol Hill, wished to honor its hero. Moynihan had an eye on a prize of his own: the revitalization of Pennsylvania Avenue, a charge given him by then-boss John F. Kennedy after the latter noticed the dingy street on his inaugural day parade.
The Reagan Building, then, fulfilled one element in Moynihan’s long-range, quarter-century vision, so he yielded on the naming of the site with good grace.
I did not know any of this history when I visited Washington last month and took this picture. This open space merely seemed to offer a great nocturnal image, the kind of place that up-and-coming politico Francis Underwood would stride through in the TV series House of Cards.
On second thought, however, I wondered about that. As seen here, Moynihan Place offers a blaze of light. It would be far too bright for the machinations of Underwood, who prefers an infinitely darker, more solitary place to implement his ruthless schemes.