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Shutdown Theater: WWII Memorial edition

October 03, 2013|By Michael Hiltzik
  • Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) comforts a World War II veteran victimized by the government shutdown she supports.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) comforts a World War II veteran victimized… (Alex Wong / Getty Images )

We have now reached the stage of bogus indignation in the government shutdown. The leading example is the ruthless exploitation by House Republicans of World War II veterans brought to the World War II Memorial on the Washington Mall for a theatrical hand-wringing over the memorial's closure -- one of many impacts of the shutdown.

You might think from the news coverage of this camera-ready event that it just happened. Not so. As Brian Rooney of the Rooney Report observes, "For two days reporters have covered veterans crossing barriers to visit the memorial, but failed to point out that the press was tipped to the event staged with the help of Republican politicians. Otherwise, just how did all those cameras and reporters happen to be there when veterans spontaneously passed the barriers?"

Members of the caucus that provoked the shutdown, such as Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Louis Gohmert (R-Texas), have made sure to be on hand when the vets arrive to see their memorial and are turned away by U.S. Park Police. The most disgraceful episode Wednesday involved Rep. Randy Neugebauer, (R-Texas), who confronted a park ranger and barked, "The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves." Here's a clue, Congressman: The mall is closed because you closed it.

The staging at the memorial is related to a GOP scheme we discussed earlier: the idea that the government can be funded piecemeal. That doesn't work. Choosing among priorities is something that legislators should do when they're preparing the budget, not under the threat of economic ruin, and not for the TV cameras. The poverty of the World War II Memorial stunt is that the lawmakers don't pay the same respect to the other victims of their actions.

By the end of this week, 5,000 children will be thrown out of Head Start because of the shutdown; have you seen any members of Congress lining up to berate teachers for keeping the kids out of school? Alec MacGillis of the New Republic traveled the other day from the World War II Memorial to the National Institutes of Health, where 200 patients, including 30 children, many of them cancer victims, will be turned away from clinical trials every week the government remains closed. He didn't see any members of Congress there either.

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