It's not altogether clear how or why one memorial in the nation's capital became a political flashpoint this week, but it did.
The National Park Service opened the World War II Memorial Wednesday to veterans visiting from around the country.Carol Johnson, a National Parks Service spokeswoman, said the veterans groups had been granted access Wednesday because it was deemed a First Amendment demonstration.The memorial was still closed to the public, however, and Johnson said other war memorials on the National Mall would also be closed. But veterans could be seen visiting the Vietnam War Memorial about a half mile away.
If you've been to D.C., you know these memorials are outdoors and easily accessible, public, pedestrian-friendly places. With the government shut down, there are now some barriers in place to let visitors know the memorials are officially closed, but we're not exactly talking about Fort Knox.
As Rachel talked about on the show last night, some elderly veterans of the war quite literally ignored the barriers yesterday and saw the memorial they'd traveled to see. Good for them.
Unfortunately, a handful of politicians seized on the controversy, sensing an opportunity to score some points. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blamed the Obama administration for the memorial's closure, when in reality, Republicans shut down the government and it was the Obama administration's Park Service that worked with the veterans and their families to ensure access.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called the Park Service "goons" and inexplicably tied the story to the American deaths in Benghazi because he's something of a ... well, the adjectives that come time probably aren't appropriate for a family website.
Indeed, it was especially jarring to see Republican lawmakers -- the folks who shut down the government this week because they oppose access to health care benefits -- try to score partisan points over access to the war memorial. Indeed, RNC Chair Reince Priebus went to the memorial this afternoon for a photo-op, announcing that Republicans would pay for private security that would allow for the memorial to stay open for the next month.
That's nice, but I get the feeling the RNC is going out of its way to miss the point.
If Republicans would end the government shutdown, not only would the memorial be open, but so too would government offices and facilities nationwide. The World War II Memorial is certainly important, but it's not the only thing that's closed that matters.
Where are the Republican politicians and RNC officials volunteering to help at NIH cancer trials? And Head Start centers?
If some ailing veterans bypassed barriers and demanded treatment at a clinic, would Republicans show up for a photo-op? Would they end the shutdown a little sooner?