The Obama Administration has decided to block access to public memorials on the National Mall as a result of the government shutdown. Like its decision to end White House tours when the sequester cuts took effect, there is no rational reason for this. The Park Police, nominally in charge of monitoring these spaces, isn’t even affected by the shutdown. Shutting off access to these sites is gratuitous and petulant.
On Monday, the first day of the government shutdown, a number of WWII veterans showed up at a memorial to their service to find that access had been blocked. The memorial is in a public space and is open 24/7, with almost no oversight from Park Police personnel. (Who, by the way, are exempt from the government shutdown.) The White House was, according to reports, informed of the veterans’ visit and chose to block access.
Having lived in DC for 18 years, I can tell you, the WWII Memorial is simply an architectural structure in an open public space. There is no official “access” to it. There are no guards. It’s a building in a park. Yet, the Obama Administration tried to block veterans from viewing the public memorial, even after hearing about the planned visit.
Fortunately, the “greatest generation” was having nothing of this and easily overcame the government barricades. (Do we yet again have to rely on this generation to show the promise of America?)
On Wednesday, the veterans’ group is planning to visit the Lincoln Memorial, which the Obama Administration has also vowed to close to visitors. I have regularly visited this memorial at one or two in the morning. At those hours, it is a peaceful and reflective place. It is an open space. There is no access that needs to be blocked. It is only by a conscious decision, and a great deal of work, that access would be blocked.
This is nothing more than a petulant response by the Obama Administration to the government shutdown. Over the next week, more than 500 WWII veterans are expected in DC to visit the memorial dedicated to their sacrifice. If the Park Police again try to erect barricades to this public space, it will be another sign that the Obama Administration has made an affirmative decision to separate itself from the American public.
Obama chose this pass. He ought to be made to own it.