Day two of Government Shutdown 2013 offered America plenty of surreal moments, from the brief and ridiculous re-emergence of the Grand Bargain, to the sight of multiple members of a universally reviled governing body offering to give up their paychecks as if they thought it was a move worthy of a medal. But nowhere did Salvador Dali's clocks warp and melt under the heat of sustained stupidity as badly as they did down at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Yesterday, it became pretty obvious that if you wanted to catch the eye of any Beltway reporter to discuss what you were enduring during the shutdown, you had to go on down to this memorial to make your case. Unfortunately, that's where many members of Congress decided to while away their day as well. As Ryan Reilly reported, heroic members of Congress turned out to boldly grandstand at the memorial, pretending just as hard as they could that its temporary closure was the most dire effect of the shutdown ... for which ... they voted. Yes, that was by far the most surreal thing about it. Gawker's Tom Scocca turned the best phrase about the whole mess, describing those lawmakers as committing "an act of civil disobedience against themselves."
But Mark Segraves, reporting for NBC News' Washington affiliate, managed to capture the howler highlight of the Great World War II Memorial Bleat-n-Repeat -- Rep. Randy Neugebauer's (R-Tex.) Wednesday confrontation of a poor park ranger on the scene -- who was doing nothing more than her job -- blaming her for the closure he voted for and telling her that she should be ashamed of herself.
Seriously, this actually happened. Per Segraves:
"How do you look at them and ... deny them access?" said Neugebauer. He, with most House Republicans, had voted early Sunday morning to pass a funding measure that would delay the Affordable Care Act, a vote that set up a showdown with the Senate and President Barack Obama. With the parties unable to agree on how to fund the federal government, non-essential government functions shut down Tuesday.
"It's difficult," responded the Park Service employee.
"Well, it should be difficult," replied the congressman, who was carrying a small American flag in his breast pocket.
"It is difficult," responded the Park Service employee. "I'm sorry, sir."
"The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves," the congressman said.
"I'm not ashamed," replied the ranger.
From there, Segraves reports, "a crowd of onlookers got involved," and began loudly demanding that Neugebauer lay off the park ranger, pointing out again and again that the reason everyone was in the position they were in was due to the fact that Congress very specifically put them there. Neugebauer countered that it was all really Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) fault, but that failed to impress anyone.
What's really ghastly about this is that the whole "Harry Reid shut down the government" line is a talking point. It's "messaging" -- the mostly disingenuous bilge that politicos spit in order to gain some phantom upper hand in a war of rhetoric that plays itself out in the press. It's not intended to be sincere, it's all posturing -- throwing sub-standard witticisms at a wall in the hopes that something will stick and convince people.
This is all stuff intended for an audience of reporters -- and in that setting, all is fair. But you're not actually supposed to extend "messaging" out into the world of ordinary human Americans in this fashion, and victimize park rangers with it.
What's also inane about this is that, as Segraves takes pains to point out, the park rangers deployed to the World War II Memorial, while enforcing the closure of the memorial to the general public, are also there to make sure that the Honor Flight veterans who come to the memorial get access to the site. So, by impeding her from doing her job, all Neugebauer was doing was impeding access for the Honor Flight veterans. And telling the ranger that she should be ashamed? Man, that's not a good look, and the gathered crowd made sure Neugebauer learned that the hard way.
Got to give credit to the ranger for standing her ground and doing her job with professionalism, in the face of an idiot who really needs to learn his place.
READ THE WHOLE THING:
Congressman Confronts Park Ranger Over Closed WWII Memorial [NBC News]
Republican Party Drafts Elderly Veterans in Its Losing War [Gawker]
PREVIOUSLY, on THE HUFFINGTON POST:
Anyone Who's Been Adversely Affected By The Government Shutdown Needs To Go To The World War II Memorial, I Guess
Republicans Grandstand At World War II Memorial Instead Of Working To Reopen It
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