published Monday, October 7th, 2013

Smith: Petty politics leads to WWII vets’ mistreatment at memorial

Robin Smith

In May of 2004, Bronze Star and Purple Heart decorated veteran and former Sen. Bob Dole joined FedEx Chairman Fred Smith to dedicate the World War II Memorial as co-chairmen of a private fundraising effort.

I wonder if they ever believed a president’s administration would order barricades to obstruct the open-air monument.

You see, these two gentlemen gave of their time and work to lead a commission that raised 92 percent of the $197 million total funding that built the memorial. The grounds consist of triumphal arches, pillars, a Freedom Wall of gold stars honoring the more than 400,000 who died for America encircling a fountain. The 7.4 acre courtyard sits at the end of the Reflecting Pool that begins at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial and in closest proximity to the Washington Memorial.

The inspiration of WWII veteran Roger Durbin began in 1987 working with Ohio Democrat Rep. Marcy Kaptur. After successfully gaining a senate co-sponsor, South Carolina Republican Strom Thurmond, and years of advocacy, the World War II Memorial Act became law, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

On Tuesday, the first day of the “government shutdown,” 92 Mississippi veterans, many of whom were octogenarians with physical limitations, were greeted by barricades denying access to the WWII Memorial site. These Honor Flight heroes were participating in the non-profit’s mission to honor U.S. veterans.

The organization’s website simply states, “We transport our heroes to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at their memorials.” According to their schedule, Honor Flight will sponsor two Tennessee groups in our nation’s capitol on Saturday, Oct. 12 with group visits planned during all but six days during October.

If you’ve ever visited this memorial, along with most others on the National Mall, they’re open with no ticketing or admission requirements. National Park Service (NPS) staff may be on hand for information, direction and assistance. But, just as any public park or sadly, a cemetery, access is open.

The Mississippi group’s host, U.S. Sen. Steven Palazzo, contacted the Department of the Interior to submit a request for access upon their arrival due to their concerns. Sen. Palazzo of Mississippi moved onto direct calls with the White House liaison after the initial rejection.

The senator, a Gulf War veteran, was stunned when given the response that: “It’s a government shutdown, what do you expect?” from the White House.

Carol Johnson, spokeswoman for the NPS, substantiated the barricade of the WWII Memorial and other National Mall monuments as being initially directed by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

Several Members of Congress made the obvious point that blockading these monuments actually cost more than simply leaving access open to the public.

I think we can agree that preventing hundreds of men, and women, who actively defended our nation in Western Europe against Hitler’s Germany and in the Pacific against the Imperial Japan at Pearl Harbor is more than petty politics. It stoops to maliciously targeting citizens to pay the price for a political mud fight.

Fred Smith noted in 2004, “…the Second World War came to represent an entire generation of Americans who selflessly left their homes for battlefields, factories and farms, doing whatever it took to meet the needs of a nation at war.”

To date, these veterans have been able to get around the government barricades to reflect on their service and to honor those who lost their lives.

But will our nation be able to overcome the political obstacles of day-in-day-out, around-the-clock campaigning absent of effective governing?

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm and serves on Tennessee’s Economic Council on Women.

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inquiringmind said...

The teaparty shut down the memorial Robin, not the President. The House can open up the parks any time they want.

October 7, 2013 at 2:43 p.m.
SaraB said...

I was personally opposed to the shutdown when everything was "defunding Obamacare". But now, the Republicans have asked for a one year delay in Obamacare that would make politicians have to pay for their plan and they passed legislation to fund hospitals, veterans, monuments, everything. The only thing that's being requested by Republicans is a delay and making sure those who make these laws live by them.

While I agree that the shutdown began with the Republicans, it is now all about the Democrats being difficult and political.

October 7, 2013 at 3:10 p.m.
inquiringmind said...

To demand the House and Senate and staff buy insurance on the exchange treats them differently than the public. Most reasonable companies offer health insurance to employees, at some level of subsidy. The government employees deserve the same option.

Let's keep the facts straight, SaraB.

The Speaker of the House negotiated with the Senate months ago to submit the current clean CR (with significant reduced funding lower than the Senate desired). This is what reasonable people call a "compromise." This compromise is what the democrats will adopt even though they disagree.

But Senator Cruz in an intentional plot to cause strife (see the news for the details) caused a small minority of house republicans to force the speaker to back down and try to force an added condition to defund or delay ACA into the bill. What the republicans are doing now is what reasonable people call "blackmail," or reneging on a promise. The clear signal they send is "do not ever accept any compromise agreement from the house republicans that is not immediately voted, because they will renege on it." You have the wrong side being "political and difficult."

The reason Cruz and his crew try this is because they have never had the traction to pass these changes when given a straight up or down vote, even after 40+ attempts.

I hope both the President and Senate hold tight and force the House to keep their promise or stew in their own juice. I think a lot of us will not be seeing Federal checks next month, like veterans benefits, social security, etc. if the House remains intransigent. Maybe then the House will wake up to reality.

October 7, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.
gypsylady said...

Hey SaraB - whatcha gonna tell folks who are trying to sign up for healthcare? Sorry, SOL for a year? No, it's not about the Democrats this time. The Republicans have been saying that they wanted to shut down the government for the past couple of years. This was their endgame. They own it and we all (including reasonable Republicans) understand that they own it.

October 7, 2013 at 5:07 p.m.
SaraB said...

What I'd say is very simple. You can sign up but the mandate's removed that the IRS won't be taking money out of your account come April 2014. It's not hard. The mandate goes away. I suppose that bothers some that government can't require the average person to buy something and won't require members of Congress to live by the laws it passes. Logic.

October 7, 2013 at 9:45 p.m.
gypsylady said...

Look up the history of how staffers came to be required to go on the exchange. It was more about manufacturing talking points and it was a petty move. As far as removing the mandate - I don't think you really understand how the model works. The model was a conservative creation courtesy of the conservative Heritage Foundation so I think this whole outrage thingy is rather laughable.

October 7, 2013 at 10:20 p.m.
anniebelle said...

I remember when St. Ronnie came on television to tell us the horrors of Medicare and how it was going to turn this country all SOCIALIST. The GOP is using the same playbook, it didn't work then and it won't now. This is the law passed by both houses, endorsed by the Supremes, and voted on by the majority of American voters. Stop being so obstructionist and treasonous because you can't get YOUR way even if the American voters told you to pound sand in the last two elections. The Democrats have already negotiated, what I consider to be a disastrous move, by giving into these traitors' demands for a less than operable budget.

October 8, 2013 at 6:36 a.m.
librul said...

Whoopee! People are calling this kerfuffle the "endgame" for Republicans and that is certainly cause for celebration - but only if it means the end to radical Tea Party republicanism and all the psycho yakking about the "end times".

Every American should go out and buy an orange wig, red rubber nose, clown shoes and makeup because the rest of the world is rightly coming to believe that Ronald McDonald is much more of a national symbol for the good 'ol USofA than they could ever have imagined.

October 8, 2013 at 7:30 a.m.
Facts said...

Back to the nature of this article, political friends and enemies are picked by Barack Obama. If you served our nation in protecting us from Nazis or the Japanese, you pay the price. If you're demanding that our immigration laws be ignored, we'll make an exception for you. Allowing an immigrant march on the National Mall while barricading veterans is perfectly illustrative of the party that voted God and Israel out of its ranks. I suppose the veterans now join them being voted out.

October 8, 2013 at 10:44 a.m.
nucanuck said...

facts, keeping God and Israel out of US politics sounds like a pretty good path to follow.

October 8, 2013 at 11:32 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

Facts, any one who fought the Nazi's or "Japs" has already paid the price. What happens now is irrelevant to that.

Obama didn't do anything to the vets, the tea party in the house are the ones who hold up the money.

Furthermore, are you suggesting it is it better to keep a memorial to the dead open than to cover someone's medical expense so that they can live?

October 8, 2013 at 12:36 p.m.
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