For the Obama administration, the shutdown is just one more political crisis it won’t let go to waste.
Take the park rangers who last week locked under armed guard a group of senior citizens that included visitors from Japan, Australia, Canada and the U.S. inside Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. Gordon Hodgson, the guide of the 41-person tour group, told the Livingston, Montana Enterprise that officials told him they could stay at the hotel but could not do anything.
“All we could do was eat dinner in the dining room. It was like a ghost town,” he said.
A member of Hodgson’s group, Pat Vaillancourt, told her hometown paper the Newburyport News that, “They (the rangers) looked like Hulk Hogans, armed. They told us you can’t go outside.” She added that some of the foreign visitors with limited English were afraid and thought they were being arrested and that “A lot of people who were foreign said they wouldn’t come back (to America).”
Barricades surrounded Old Faithful and the group was not even allowed to photograph bison as “recreating” was not allowed, according to an armed ranger who ordered the tour back onto their bus. Hodgson, the guide, called the behavior of the rangers “Gestapo tactics.” He added, “We paid a lot to get in. All these people wanted to do was take some pictures.”
And then there is the widely reported story about the National Parks Service barricading the open air monuments at the National Mall in Washington. That decision forced elderly World War II veterans who had traveled hundreds of miles to visit the memorial honoring their service to find a way around them.
Employees of the Parks Service even removed handles on well pumps along the C&O Canal towpath that runs 184 miles from Washington to Cumberland, Maryland, preventing bikers from getting water, according to a report last week in The Cumberland Times-News.
Despite the shutdown, the Obama administration found a way to help political allies access the National Mall the rest of America is not allowed to visit, however. On Tuesday a march for amnesty for illegal immigrants sponsored in part by Service Employees International Union and Casa de Maryland was allowed to take place with the imprimatur of the National Parks Service on “First Amendment grounds.” Labor Secretary Tom Perez, coincidentally, is the former head of Casa de Maryland’s board of directors.
One of the highlights of the rally was a concert by the band Los Tigres del Norte, so apparently attendees were allowed to “recreate.”
According to a report in USA Today, the parks service is now allowing veterans to visit memorials, but “non-veterans not practicing free speech are still barred from the memorials and mall.”
Who gets to decide who is practicing free speech or not? Are there “essential” federal employees assigned to the task?
Not everyone who works for the Parks Service is happy about the way the shutdown is being handled. As one ranger told The Washington Times following the World War II veterans’ incident, “It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation. … We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”
It is disgusting. Especially because the Obama administration’s directives are geared to inflict as much pain as possible with no point other than to make life difficult for Americans.
Barricading open air monuments? Preventing sightseeing at gunpoint? Taking well pumps? Who are these thugs — and who are the extremists here?
The ironic thing is that being mean is not helping the administration politically. Republicans are taking the most blame for the government shutdown according to polls, but President Barack Obama’s approval rating is only 37 percent, hardly a PR victory for him.
Ultimately the only thing he is proving through his nasty tactics is that he governs like the “Soup Nazi” of “Seinfeld” dispenses soup — arbitrarily and rudely. Shutdown or no shutdown, “No soup for you!” is not a way to run a country.
— Marta H. Mossburg writes frequently about national affairs. Follow her on Twitter at @mmossburg.