Darrell Issa's committee to investigate why open-air memorials were closed as part of shutdown

I was hoping he would, and now he is.

House oversight committee chairman Darrell Issa has launched an investigation into why the WWII memorial and other open-air monuments have been shut down.

“These properties belong to the American people. They do not belong to a Political party. There is no reason to ever shut those folks out from that,” said Representative Mike Kelly in an emotional speech…

Issa’s investigation is at its preliminary stages, Frederick Hill, his spokesman, said. But his committee will be exploring whether decisions were made to close monuments and other attractions for political reasons, potentially as a means of worsening the pain of a shutdown to increase political pressure on House Republicans.

The House Committee on Natural Resources posted an interactive map up showing photos of various parks around D.C. — not all of which have been closed, at least as of this writing. It’s the popular ones like the Lincoln Memorial, it seems, that were targeted first, which is entirely consistent with the cardinal rule of shutdown theater. And some of the ones that are closed this time weren’t closed during the ’95 shutdown. The Daily Caller has a photo of the Lincoln Memorial from that era showing the information booth closed but with visitors in the background at Abe’s feet. The essence of shutdown theater in one line: “Popular Washington spots such as the World War II memorial are now guarded by more security personnel than they are during normal operations, while federal employees have been dispatched to put up barricades on capital bike paths and other public grounds that are not usually patrolled at all.”

Via the Corner, here’s Jay Carney trying and failing to come up with a non-political explanation for why vets were allowed into the WWII Memorial this morning. The closure order, he notes, specifically exempts “First Amendment activities.” What are “First Amendment activities”? See this cached page from the National Park Service’s website. (The website isn’t live at the moment because, in another dumb part of shutdown theater, unmanned government websites have to be closed too.) Essentially, every park as part of normal practice is required by the First Amendment to allow things like protesting, leafletting, religious ceremonies, etc. They can, however, require a permit for groups larger than 25 people and they can, in order to keep the park orderly, force people who are protesting/leafletting/holding the ceremony to do so within a designated area. In other words, the policy on “First Amendment activities” isn’t about granting anyone special access that the rest of the public is denied; it’s about limiting the access of certain people who come to the park to do noisy/controversial stuff that might be disruptive to other visitors. The Honor Flight vets aren’t in that category, obviously. They’re there to use the park for its intended purpose, i.e. quietly remembering the fallen and reminiscing about the war. If that’s a “First Amendment activity” worthy of special admission, then the barricades should be removed from every memorial because basically everyone in the country qualifies. Carney’s just grasping for a “neutral” non-political excuse here. But then, you knew that.

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