Pharos-Tribune

October 9, 2013

PARKER: Washington makes a monumental mistake


Pharos-Tribune

---- — Losing a hard-fought battle confers no dishonor, but losing a badly chosen battle is embar-rassing.

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.

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.

In more recent history, 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.

Among the many reasons the closure was so clumsy, one stands out starkly: It isn’t as though the World War II 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. The American People are now free to roam their public spaces in remembrance of sacrifices beyond most imaginations.

Optically, symbolically and every other way, this seems too little too late. Shutting out veterans from their memorial touchstone 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.

And this is the president who recently declared that The American People are not political pawns to be used to score political points?

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.

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 personal 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.

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 own toughness by punishing the least-deserving.

As we approach the next battle over the debt ceiling, would that all of Washington remember the rule of the savvy negotiator: Always leave your opponent an exit.

Kathleen Parker is a columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. She can be reached at kathleenparker@washpost.com.