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M.D. Harmon: National Park Service antics diminish president


“This is most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered.”

— David E. Sanger, New York Times staff reporter, who has worked in Washington for two decades.

It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation,” an angry Park Service ranger in Washington says of the harassment. “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”

— Quote in an article on the federal shutdown in the Washington Times.

Is the Obama administration the meanest one on record? That question is now being raised by many observers, and they have good reason to ask it.

Amid all the horror stories coming out of the current budget situation, which began with the House of Representatives digging in its heels over funding the rolling catastrophe that is Obamacare and now has expanded to include raising the debt ceiling, few are more hair-raising (even in their utter pettiness) than the treatment being meted out to ordinary Americans by the “public servants” employed by the National Park Service.

This is leaving aside the rhetoric employed by President Obama and his aides (along with his media sympathizers) to cast his opponents in the worst possible terms — as terrorists, suicide bombers, murderers (thanks, Sen. King), Nazis, KKK members and more. It’s also leaving aside the worst thing they have done, denying death benefits to the families of soldiers killed in action.  But that may be being repaired by the time you read this.

Let’s look instead at the difficulties faced by citizens whose desires to see their own sites are being forcibly frustrated.

It’s hard to know where to start, but most notable are the efforts by NPS employees to close down parks, attractions and memorials that are entirely open to the public and require no staffing if all people want to do is look at them.

Nevertheless, large groups of World War II veterans, mostly in their 80s and 90s, who had been brought to Washington to see the WWII Memorial on the National Mall by the “Honor Flight” program, were initially blocked from the site by portable fences that soon gained the name “Barrycades.”

But, led by some conservative members of Congress, they pushed the barriers aside and flowed onto the site. One photograph showed a proud veteran holding up a strip of yellow “Entry Blocked” tape as a souvenir.

My favorite comment came from the veteran who said, “Normandy was closed when we got there, too.”

But the rangers were soon back, tying the barriers together with wire that reminded some veterans of the barbed wire that surrounded the prison-of-war and concentration camps they liberated.

Meanwhile, while citizens were being blocked from the Mall, permission was granted for a pro-amnesty immigration reform group to hold a rally on the Mall that was addressed by prominent Democratic congressmen.

While the rally’s attendance was far below expectations, it still showed the administration’s double standards were fully in place.

Other examples of NPS staffers’ denials of access include:

— They not only closed the visitors’ center at the Mt. Rushmore presidential memorial in South Dakota, they put up traffic cones on a public highway to prevent motorists from parking in a scenic overlook area to view the monument from their cars;

— They physically removed and threatened with arrest Vietnam veterans who were walking past the Vietnam Memorial, an area entirely open to foot traffic with no obstacles whatsoever;

— They temporarily shut down the parking lot at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home, which is run by a private group (this was reversed after a public outcry);

— They did this, as recorded by the Weekly Standard: “There’s a cute little historic site just outside of the capital in McLean, Va., called the Claude Moore Colonial Farm. They do historical reenactments, and once upon a time the National Park Service helped run the place. But in 1980, the NPS cut the farm out of its budget. A group of private citizens set up an endowment to take care of the farm’s expenses. Ever since, the site has operated independently through a combination of private donations and volunteer workers.

“The Park Service told Claude Moore Colonial Farm to shut down. The farm’s administrators appealed this directive — they explained that the Park Service doesn’t actually do anything for the historic site. The folks at the NPS were unmoved. And so, last week, the National Park Service found the scratch to send officers to the park to forcibly remove both volunteer workers and visitors.”

Thus, the magazine noted, the NPS was “now in the business of forcing parks that they don’t administer to close. As Homer Simpson famously asked, did we lose a war?” (As with Mount Vernon, the NPS relented after stories held them up to ridicule.)

— They blocked a family that had paid for a $2,000 permit to paddle down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon from entering. Though other groups were on the river, and rangers were available to help them if any difficulties arose, the NPS told the family they could not walk over federal land to reach the river for its cruise. (Arizona offered to pay for staffing the Canyon’s attractions, and was turned down.)

Briebart.com’s Big Government website is maintaining a running list of such stupidities. The list is now up to 47 denials of service, including (with my thoughts in parentheses):

“1. Treatments for children suffering from cancer (questions about this led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to famously say, “Who cares about that?”) … 3. Business stops in Florida Keys as sport fisherman are blocked from docks (this is known on the Internet as “Closing the Ocean”) … 14. Residents forced from private homes (among others, a couple in their 80s living on federal land near Lake Meade were barred from their domicile) … 29. Federal prison guards not getting paid, inmates are … 34. Feds shut down major roadway, put children’s lives at risk (the only safe road for school buses in a mountainous county in Tennessee passed through a park and was closed in the middle of a school day) … 43. Obama administration denied mass to Catholics (contract priests on military bases were barred from chapels there, under threat of arrest) … 44. Yellowstone: Tourists locked in hotel under armed guard thought they were under arrest (many elderly people from several countries were present) … 47. National Institutes of Health stop therapy dogs from visiting sick children (I don’t trust myself to comment on this one).”

There’s more — lots more — but I’ve run out of space and I’m getting sick to my stomach. Those people who warned us that Obama’s famous pledge to “fundamentally change this country” sprang from the fact that he actually hated America may have once been dismissed as cranks, but that’s getting harder to do.

As Rush Limbaugh pointed out recently, “If you love a woman, do you tell her that you want to fundamentally change her? No, you tell her you love her just as she is.”

But America certainly appears not to be greatly loved by its highest leader.

With his job approval now running at 37 percent (AP/GfK poll, Oct. 9), it looks like most Americans now think the feeling of disdain should be mutual.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: mdharmoncol@yahoo.com