Losing a hard-fought battle confers no dishonor, but losing a badly chosen battle is embarrassing.
And then there’s ridiculous.
Into the latter category goes the decision to close the nation’s monuments to make sure the government shutdown strikes the hearts of all The American People, whose constant invocation by pandering politicians fills one with self-loathing.
Then again, ridiculous is perhaps too generous a word. Closing the monuments, especially the World War II Memorial, can be reduced, fittingly, to a single syllable: Dumb.
When a group of World War II veterans recently faced barriers blocking entry to the memorial — an open space requiring not so much as an attendant — these elderly warriors took a page from their Normandy playbook and stormed the barricades.
Can there be an image more inspiring than members of this venerable club, whose living roll declines each day by about 640, pushing their way through flimsy, useless, pointless barriers to roam among pillars erected to their heroism? What was Washington thinking?
President Obama, whose grandfather was a World War II veteran, might have known better. We may have to close down the government, he could have said, but don’t touch the monuments.
It isn’t as though the WWII guys can always come back another day. All are in their late 80s and early 90s and time is of the essence. Moreover, most plan these trips well in advance at considerable expense.
Thanks to the monument liberators, Washington officials were forced to rethink their decision and removed the barriers.
Optically, symbolically and every other way, this seems too little too late. Shutting out veterans from their memorial was more than a bad call, a lapse of judgment, a mere moment of tone deafness. In reality, it may have been the tidy effort of a box-checking bureaucrat but it reeked of the small work of a petty bully.
While one may sympathize with Obama’s contempt for his congressional adversaries, he may have cut off his own nose with an unforced error of magnified proportions. Spite is unbecoming a president. But beyond personality, it is baffling to imagine anyone thinking that the way to winning hearts and minds is by disrespecting the nation’s most beloved demographic.
I’ve often lamented the prospect of a world without my parents’ generation, not because they were perfect but because these mothers and fathers take with them a national treasure — their experiences and memories of The Great Depression and World War II and the lessons of sacrifice, thrift, courage and duty that defined them.
In their place, we have a bickering, twittering, snarling, snarky, toxic public square that has contaminated even our highest offices. How surreal it must seem to our oldest and wisest citizens to witness the breaking bad of America.
Nearly any but the die-hardest tea party member regrets the shuttering of the U.S. government. It was unnecessary, counterproductive, and punishes all the wrong people.
Tying the defunding of Obamacare to the shutdown was folly, which sensible House Republicans knew even as they ignored their better judgment. Even so, the White House and Democrats seem determined to prove their toughness by punishing the least-deserving.
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