When I first saw this story, I assumed that it almost had to be a hoax. After the previous incidents with veterans and the added expenditures involved in closing open spaces to keep veterans from paying their respects to the Honored Dead one would assume that even a novice politician would move to staunch the bleeding. But instead, it seems that the White House is doubling down, as reported at The Weekly Standard.
Via William Jacobson, NBC’s affiliate in Washington, D.C. reports that police ordered tourists and Vietnam war veterans who were visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to leave the memorial at one point on Friday.
After one group of veterans went around the barricade, “the park ranger told them the wall was closed,” NBC’s Mark Seagraves reported. “Later another group of vets showed up and moved the barricades. At that point, the memorial filled with vets and tourists. That’s when police came and moved everyone out.”
As usual, it sounds like our veterans accounted themselves in a professional dignified manner, but were not going to put up with any nonsense.
Segraves described the exchange as pleasant and respectful.
The veterans then moved the barricade and walked down to the wall to pay their respects. But a flood of tourists followed even though the memorial is closed to the general public.
“The consensus among the group of Vietnam veterans was we’re going to go anyway. We’ll go through the barricade,” North Carolina resident Reid Mendenhall said.
U.S. Park Police arrive to the scene, asked everyone to leave and put the barricade back into place.
Conflict over the closure of D.C.’s war memorials has drawn a lot of controversy this week.
Yes… a lot of controversy is putting it mildly. The President can pick all the battles with congressional Republicans that he likes and probably not draw too much political fire from the middle. But if you wanted to conduct a poll of who is least likely to be blamed for anything in this country by the general public, veterans visiting war memorials would have to come in somewhere near the bottom of the list, behind possibly only puppies.
How many more of these stories can the administration sustain before the “no compromise, no negotiations” crowd realizes that they’re going to have to come to the table? Assuming, that is, that the stories actually make it onto the national news.
Update: (Jazz) A bit more thoughtful perspective on this than I managed on short notice from Doug.
Quite honestly, the closure of the open air memorials on the National Mall has been among the more bizarre post-shutdown moves that those in authority have taken. Ordinarily, these memorials are open all day and night every day of the year. To the extent that they are staffed, it is typically by National Park Service employees giving guided tours, not by Park Police (although there may be regular patrols of these memorials at night by officers as part of their regular rounds). The fact that these employees, who are essentially just tour guides aren’t around doesn’t really detract at all from the experience of visiting the memorials themselves…
Many on the right have accused the Obama Administration of doing things like closing these memorials in an effort to inflict the most pain in a public manner as part of an effort to put pressure on the GOP. Frankly, I have no doubt that there might be some truth in that, and that the choices of what has and hasn’t been closed may well have some political motivation behind it. However, it strikes me that some of these choices were made without considering of the public relations of doing so. The pictures of open air memorials that have always been open to the public being surrounded by barricades, or of World War II veterans having to essentially force their way in to the memorial to the war that they fought, doesn’t really make for very good television or photography.
I’d probably have had to use a lot more curse words inappropriate for this site if I’d written that much about it but well said none the less.