History arrives the first time as tragedy, we are told, and the second time as farce. The 17th government shutdown is long on the latter and short on the former, at least at the moment, but that’s not specifically what this story illustrates. After the Obama administration rushed barricades (some call them Barry-cades now) to block access to popular Washington memorials that don’t have any restricted access at all under normal conditions, the plight of World War II veterans became a national story — and an opportunity for Republicans to intervene easily on their behalf. By the time Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) arrived to lend a hand, plenty more opposition to the GOP had a chance to organize. After Neugebauer scolded a Parks Service ranger, a furloughed worker lashed out at the Congressman — and someone lashed out at him afterward:
(Update: Replaced embed code, but if it still doesn’t work, follow the links to see vid.)
Now there’s video from Wednesday of Texas Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer telling a Park Service ranger that she and her bosses should be ashamed for carrying out the order that the memorial, like other national parks and monuments, should be closed because there’s no money available to keep them open.
Neugebauer was there as more WWII veterans were allowed to visit the memorial because the Park Service has decided the vets are exercising their First Amendment rights. But he wasn’t pleased that other members of the public weren’t being allowed on to the memorial site. He told the ranger that the Park Service should be ashamed. She said it’s difficult to turn people away, but that she wasn’t ashamed. “You should be,” Neugebauer responded.
It’s then that a man in a bicycle helmet told the congressman that “this woman [the ranger] is doing her job, just like me. I’m a 30-year federal veteran — I’m out of work.”
Neugebauer responded that it’s Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has “decided to shut down the government.”
“No, it’s because the government won’t do its job and pass a budget,” the cyclist countered.
In the background, another voice can be heard taking Neugebauer’s side: “The House did their job, they passed appropriations. The Senate hasn’t.”
Neuegebauer probably won’t put this clip into his career scrapbook. The ranger on duty had been instructed to patrol the barricade, and Neugebauer’s harangue wasn’t going to change that. She’s not the one who ordered the costly and unnecessary obstruction of the memorial, and for that matter, it wasn’t the National Parks Service’s idea either. That order came from the Office of Management and Budget, at the White House. Republicans should make sure they’re aiming a little higher than a park ranger when it comes to scolding and shaming. To his credit, Neugebauer realized his mistake and admitted it later.
The rest of the clip is interesting for its silliness. The furloughed worker made sure to yell at Neugebauer because Congress hasn’t passed a budget, which is true, but the House has passed a number of CRs that would have kept the government in operation — with increasingly smaller demands. It’s the Senate that refuses to negotiate at all, claiming bizarrely that the House has no say in what gets funded.
Finally, we proceed from tragedy to farce to the theater of the absurd in the final moments of the clip. Protesters gathered at the WWII memorial in the middle of a budget crisis to demand …. higher wages. Meanwhile, the WWII veterans who wanted a nice day in the park with their fellow members of the Greatest Generation must have been reminiscing about the good old days of corporal punishment. It’s the First Amendment exercise that the National Parks Service graciously decided to allow, even while being completely incapable of explaining exactly why a park that’s open 24/7 under normal circumstances for free needed such an exception this week for access.