Rand Paul: Some government idiot sent goons to barricade the memorial; Update: Honor Flight Chicago still a go for today

posted at 8:41 am on October 2, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Is the Honor Flight endangered by the government shutdown? Even though TSA remains funded as an essential national-security function, the agency couldn’t answer questions from local media in Toledo as to whether the government would stop a flight of local WWII vets from going to Washington DC next week to meet at the memorial dedicated to their service and heroism.  Quite frankly, they don’t care, either:

TSA employees were still working at Toledo Express Airport, but when WNWO called the TSA to find out if they would be affected, there was a message that said the public relations representative did not have access to her voicemail or email due to the government shutdown.

In a letter from Marcy Kaptur’s office in the 9th District, it read, “…only services deemed essential for the safety of human life and protection of property will be continued.”

But for a group of World War II vets visiting the national memorial in Washington D.C., an all expense paid trip which is called an “Honor Flight,” the shutdown was not stopping them from seeing the tribute that was inspired by them.

“It just goes to show you why we won World War II,” says Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio President Lee Armstrong. …

Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio has a trip scheduled to depart from Toledo next Wednesday, October 9.

“We will make the call this Friday to determine if the flight is still a go, or if we will have to re-schedule,” Armstrong explains.

He says they are considering going ahead with the trip even if the government is still on shutdown, but when he called the parks service, he was told they would face arrest.

They tried that yesterday, too, but what police officer wanted to be the first to arrest a veteran from accessing a public memorial? I’ve been to the WWII Memorial in DC, and it’s open to the public for no charge. It doesn’t require any ticket-takers or turnstiles. Yet, someone in DC figured that it would make a point to block access to the memorial, and Rand Paul wants to know what “idiot” sent in the “goons” yesterday:

“If Harry Reid and the President want to keep the parks closed— I mean did you read the story today? Some idiot in government sent goons out there to set up barricades, so they couldn’t see the monument. People had to spend hours setting up barricades where there are never barricades to prevent people from seeing the World War II monument because they’re trying to play a charade,” Rand (R-Ky.) said Tuesday on Fox News’s “Hannity.”

Paul’s attack comes after reports that a group of World War II veterans had to break down barricades to access the National World War II Memorial, one of the sites that was closed due to the government shutdown.

Paul also said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama are “going to play a game” and that they “like the shutdown.”

“They’re going to play a game with us to say, ‘oh, you can’t see see the monuments’? That’s ridiculous, they’re doing it because they just aren’t serious about this, they like the shutdown,” Paul said.

The Daily Caller reported that the vets actually checked in with the National Parks Service first, but were denied access — and then denied it by the White House as well when Rep. Steve Palazzo tried to intercede:

“We got the heads up that they will be barricaded and specifically asked for an exception for these heroes,” Palazzo told TheDC. “We were denied and told, ‘It’s a government shutdown, what do you expect?’ when we contacted the liaison for the White House.”

Palazzo’s office was in touch with the heads of the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior and the Capitol Police. He says all these officials rejected his request to allow the veterans, many of whom are octogenarians and some of whom are in poor health, to attend.

Palazzo, a Gulf War Marine veteran who has participated in all five of the Honor Flights, blames the White House for making it harder on veterans and playing politics. “At first I thought it was a huge bureaucratic oversight,” Palazzo told The Daily Caller, “but having talked with the officials I can’t help but think this was politically motivated. Honor Flights, which bring WWII veterans to the nation’s memorials, are planned a year in advance and cost anywhere between $80,000 to $100,000. How low can you get with playing politics over our nation’s veterans?”

In a statement, Palazzo noted that he is introducing legislation to ensure that all Honor Flights are granted access this week. “This is an open-air memorial that the public has 24/7 access to under normal circumstances — even when Park Service personnel aren’t present,” Palazzo said in the statement. “It actually requires more effort and expense to shut out these veterans from their Memorial than it would to simply let them through. My office has been in touch with NPS officials and the Administration to try to resolve this issue.”

Jake Tapper reported that NPS barricaded the park because old people might need CPR. No, seriously:

“Park Service did not want to barricade these, but unfortunately we have been directed, because of the lack of appropriations, to close all facilities and grounds,” said National Mall and Memorial parks spokeswoman Carol Johnson.

“I know that this is an open-air memorial, but we have people on staff who are CPR trained, (and) we want to make sure that we have maintenance crew to take care of any problems. What we’re trying to do is protect this resource for future generations,” said Johnson.

They don’t seem terribly concerned about that in the absence of a shutdown:

In case readers doubt the determination of the Greatest Generation who defeated the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese, veterans are now planning “assaults” on other memorials in Washington:

On Wednesday, the scene could repeat itself when groups from the Honor Flight Network — a national charity that brings aging World War II veterans to visit the national monument to the conflict they fought in — are scheduled to arrive at the massive outdoor memorial. Meanwhile, veterans have pondered staging a similar protest at the Lincoln memorial, said Jamie Miller, a five-year veteran of the Marine Corps and another organizer of the Iowa group that stormed the World War II memorial Tuesday.

“We are thinking about jumping the Lincoln memorial too,” he said. “If Lincoln was a war memorial I would do it in a heart beat.”

Wednesday’s rally at the World War II is set to become a political sideshow to the larger shutdown debate, with RNC chair Reince Priebus urging Republicans to show up at the event with American flags to support the veterans and attack Democrats and Obama. Those RNC supporters that show up will find a lot of Republican lawmakers — and at least one Democrat, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill — at the memorial waiting for them.

Whoever came up with this strategy in the Obama administration should have his head examined. (via Allahpundit’s intrepid link-retrieval efforts this morning)

Update: My friends and Salem colleagues Big John and Amy at WIND say Honor Flight Chicago is undaunted by “goons” and barricades:

Honor Flight Chicago CEO Mary Pettinato told John and Amy that they will still visit the World War II Memorial later today, and are prepared to go as far as getting arrested if they are blocked from taking their group of veterans to the memorial[.]

Audio at the link.


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