As of writing this article, Americans have endured more than a week of government “shutdown,” with no end in sight. Despite House Republicans sending several budget proposals to the Senate, President Barack Obama and his Senate Water Carrier, Harry Reid, continue to dig in their heels; refusing to even consider negotiating an end to the slowdown. The contrasts with the last government “shutdown,” nearly a generation ago, are dramatic.
I was a member of Congress during the winter of 1995/1996, the most recent government prior “shutdown.” That historic budget battle was no less tense or divided than the current one. A key difference between then and now, however, is that both then-Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Democratic President Bill Clinton understood politics was not a zero-sum game -- where one side's loss must always equal the other side's gain. These two savvy politicians knew that while each side needed strong sound bites to appease their party's base, at the end of the day, and for the good of the country, an agreement needed to be reached -- even if neither side achieved 100% of its goals.
Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton.
Rather than take notes from his predecessor and negotiate an end to the government shutdown -- then claim both victory and credit -- Obama and Reid remain resolutely obstinate. Worse, they are deliberately and selectively directing that certain agencies and functions of the federal government shut down completely – not in any effort to conserve resources, but for the sole purpose of inflicting as much and as visible pain on the American people as possible.
Their tactics are despicable and border on tyrannical.
“We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can,” one National Parks Service ranger told the Washington Times; and evidence of this Machiavellian scheming can be found across the nation. Not satisfied with merely closing national parks like Mt. Rushmore, the NPS placed cones blocking scenic overlooks where drivers at least could pull over and take pictures. At Yellowstone National Park, one of the country’s most popular, Park Rangers are using drawn firearms to make their point.
Such surreal scenes are taking place at sites owned by the American people from coast to coast. But the Administration is not content to flex its own muscle to score political points.
Obama is commandeering private businesses to do his dirty work. Bruce O'Connell, owner of the Pisgah Inn off the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, was ordered to close down his business, send guests packing, and cancel remaining reservations during his peak business season. Why? He leases his building from the federal government. Federal park rangers even attempted to shutdown the Mt. Vernon historical site, which has operated as a private non-profit for more than 150 years.
Perhaps none of this showboating compares to the moral disgrace of turning America’s national war memorials into presidential political hostages. These freestanding, open-air sites scattered around the nation’s Capital, now are completely closed to the public -- something that has never before been done in any of the 16 prior government shutdowns. Even the closure signs themselves are designed for maximum political impact, with the word “SHUTDOWN” emblazoned in upper case letters as the reason for the “inconvenience.”
To further illustrate his point, Obama ordered barricades (or, “Barrycades” as they have come to be fondly referred, in a reference to the President’s college-era nickname) be placed around these monuments, including memorials visited daily by war veterans and their families. When these barricades were breached initially by resolute WW II veterans – themselves all too familiar with the machinations of tyrannical despots -- they then were wired shut. Federal law enforcement officials guard the barricades, and threaten civilians and veterans alike with prosecution should they now try to violate the peevish directives of their “Commander in Chief.”
This truly is disgusting; but does serve to illustrate that the President’s political Party truly has lost touch with the people they supposedly serve. The memorials belong to the citizens of the United States; including the men and women who fought and died in the wars memorialized by these historic monuments. They are not Obama's to shut down, regardless of the reason.
Democrats won’t admit it, but this is why they are losing the shutdown battle. Unfortunately, unless Reid breaks ranks with his Beloved Leader and opens good-faith communications with Republicans in the House, Americans will have to get used to Obama’s petty and vindictive conduct; it appears to be the only way he knows how to behave, and is certain to continue through his second term.