There is an Art to Good Politics; WWII Memorial Shows Obama as Artless.

Back in 2006, I wrote about the artlessness of Hillary Clinton, who could have turned a story around to her advantage, and seemed masterful and above the fray at the same time. Hillary was artless.

Today we’re watching another display of political artlessness going down at the World War II Memorial, where 90-year old veterans of that war are being wheeled to that monument (and apparently the Lincoln memorial) by personal attendees — some of whom, no doubt, are trained in CPR — and the Obama government, who handled yesterday stupidly, is heading into a face off with them, by erecting spite fences around a completely open-air memorial*.

In denying the group of aged veterans permission to enter the memorial, Obama, like Hillary in 2006, missed an opportunity to turn the whole story around, and brilliantly: Instead of denying the veterans — who are very old, unlikely to be making a second trip and who have damn well earned the right to see their memorial — Obama should have personally greeted them there, respectfully toured the memorial with them, listened to a few stories and then made some remarks about how everything the veterans have fought for is now “under attack and being threatened” by politicking, and extremism and we must always fight for all Americans, rhetoric, rhetoric blah, blah”, and the president should have posed for pictures with the vets and promised that “any vet could always come to their memorials, whether the government is shut down or not, because we owe them that much.”

The press would have eaten it up, and Obama — particularly if he had been able to discipline himself (questionable) to speaking respectfully of the opposition, and not calling them his “enemies”, or “terrorists” — would have absolutely defused this story, and made himself look masterful in the process. Instead of creating a bad-optics story out of stubbornness and spite, he’d have completely owned the story, to his advantage.

Yes, I know, such a statement would properly have to go to congress, so “funding” for the parks could be re-instated, but Obama has no problem issuing Executive Fiats to laws outside of what is strictly required — he’s done it many times with the Affordable Care Act — so I am sure he would be given a pass for letting the veteran’s through.

So, yes, Obama is artless. I believe Bill Clinton, or Ronald Reagan, facing a similar situation, would have taken control of it in the most positive way possible, and they’ve have won the day.

But they were better at this presidenting thing, than Obama. If they hated the people who didn’t vote for them, they never let it show. It was never so obvious. But we’re in a different world, now.

*Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the World War II memorial is privately funded and staffed by volunteers. I’ll confirm that and get back on it.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Christine~Soccer Mom

    WWII Memorial is part of NPS. The D-Day Memorial is privately funded and staffed by volunteers. (Bedford, VA)

    I’d put the NPS page up, but apparently government shutdown means that they have to turn off their servers or something, though the DOI page is up with a banner declaring there’s a shutdown. *eyeroll*

  • Adam Frey

    “I think the World War II memorial is privately funded and staffed by volunteers. I’ll confirm that and get back on it.”
    I can’t find a clear answer on this. My quick research indicates that the Memorial was constructed by a combination of donations and Congressional expenditures. As to who “owns” and “runs” the memorial now, I don’t know. My default assumption would be that the National Park Service owns the land and everything attached to it. Beyond maintenance crews, there aren’t any workers that I’ve really seen at the Memorial. There’s an information booth on the south side of the Memorial which covers both it and the District of Columbia World War Memorial (a smaller monument which is around the corner). My guess is that they’re volunteers, as they tend to be older and don’t wear the park ranger uniforms.
    I would be astonished if this issue reached the President’s level. The federal government is, like any organiation, a multi-layered bureacracy. (Just look at your own diocese’s hierarchy–while not as far-reaching as the government, it’s probably got a similar tree.) The Memorial falls under the National Mall branch of the National Capital Region of the National Park Service, which itself falls under some portion of the Department of the Interior. That’s at least 5 layers of hierarchy to the President. (In my job, I can count seven levels of people from myself to the President. It’s not like I can just call him.) If I had to guess, some regional director at a lower level had to make the call to close off the Memorial due to the budget. Maybe it’s as simple a matter as they can’t maintain and protect the Memorial from vandalism and trash due to having no funding for maintenance. I seriously doubt that these are “spite fences,” though bad press certainly doesn’t help the optics.
    Lastly, I don’t think your primary photo is from the WWII Memorial. (I don’t know if you intended it to be or if it’s just meant to evoke an image of veterans.) It’s possible that I’ve just never noticed those statues on my multiple visits to the Memorial, but I don’t recognize that body of water in the background. The Tidal basin is to the South, and if that were the Reflecting Pool, we’d see the Lincoln Memorial in the back. I’m curious where that’s from, but–correct me if I’m wrong–it’s not from the Memorial on the National Mall.

  • David

    The visit by these WW II veterans was widely known, reported by many media outlets. But, I would like to know where the order to barricade all of the monuments originated. My guess is someone at the White House, not some low-level managerial type over at the National Park Service.
    BTW, there were no guards at the Lincoln Memorial when the lady with green paint splashed in those early morning hours. But there were guards and the barricades once the shutdown began.

  • Adam Frey

    Follow-up: the first photo appears to be from the World War II Memorial in Pierre, South Dakota, not the one in Washington D.C. (which is the focus of this story). They’re both Park Service sites, though, so I can see how a Google search for one would have turned up the other.

  • MeanLizzie

    Thanks, Adam. I was working fast and figuring on more pics of today being available than there seemed to be. Replaced.

  • MikeL

    Anyone who has seen what happens during a local tax revolt should not be surprised by this (dismayed, yes; surprised, no). The first thing to do is close off whatever public facing activities there are: Tor instance, during a school tax revolt, cancel sports, music and art – don’t even attempt to look for the hidden and often ridiculous expenses (bunny inspectors, let’s say) that cause the tax increases.

  • Patrick

    “Yes, I know, such a statement would properly have to go to congress, so ‘funding’ for the parks could be re-instated…”

    So if Obama doesn’t violate the law, he’s artless; and if he does, he’s a tyrant.

    On the “hating people who didn’t vote for you”: where were you during the Bush years, when war-opposers were routinely accused of cowardice and implied treason, while the GOP referred to the “Democrat Party”*? How about when Ron Paul – a very conservative Republican – was excluded from the 2008 GOP convention because of his war opposition

    The political left hardly has the market cornered on “hating people who didn’t vote for them”.

  • lweisenthal

    Do you really think that Barack Obama is micromanaging the staffing at national monuments and parks? Do you even think that what happened at the monument in question was known to Obama before it happened? Or that it was even known to anyone in the West Wing before it happened?

  • Jliving33

    I’ve had the privilege of visiting the WWII Memorial twice just months after its completion. It’s an open-air memorial with no ticket sales, turnstiles, or staff. It’s open 24/7 and is no different then visiting the Vietnam War Memorial wall or the Lincoln Memorial. Instructions to barricade this memorial does seem to have come directly from the Office of Personnel Management which is run by the Executive Branch. Due to the outdoor nature of this memorial, putting barricades around it does seem to have been a particularly spiteful act. Visiting this memorial would be no different than going to your local city park and looking at a beautiful statue
    erected in honor of a particular cause. There really is no way to “close” this memorial due to the fact that it’s open-air, so errecting the barricades seems to be a particularly purposeful act.

  • Francis

    Third attempt to post, so pardon repeats.
    The memorial is open 24/7, and staffed about 8 hours a day. The NPS confirmed today that the order to close and barricade the memorial came from the White House, and they had to hire extra staff to close the memorial.

  • Magdalene51

    But he considers them “the enemy”.

  • MeanLizzie

    Hey, I’m just saying if he has no problem with executive fiats, why not today? As to the rest, you can say anything you want about the RNC; I’m not a Republican and have no love for ‘em. But specific to Bush, did you EVER see him show hate for the other side? Or Clinton? No, you didn’t. Obama’s very clear.

  • dudeman1144

    One can only imagine that in this case also, taking the time to create a “ZOMG SHUTDOWN” page cost more than just leaving it running normally. But leaving it running is what an adult would do, whereas specially creating a “shutdown” notification page out of spite is how a teenager would act.

  • David

    Thanks for finding the answer. Having to bring in extra staff, that’s a pretty spiteful act.

  • Oldlinestatedad

    Ah the classic “if only stalin knew..”excuse. Used for years by those in the ussr who couldn’t bring themselves to believe stalin had orchestrated the various purges in the party and the army. Stalin knew, and the nps, which didn’t close the Lincoln memorial in 1995-6the during the last shutdown, wouldn’t decide all by itself to shut down open space memorials, especially since doing so would cost extra money.

  • Augustine

    There goes another partisan comment trying to justify a side by mentioning that the other side does it too, no matter how despicable.

  • PostLiberal

    There is a difference when the POTUS and his staff do it, as opposed to people lower down in the ranks. President Obama has been much more vituperative towards Republicans than President Bush ever was towards Democrats. Vice President Biden and White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer have referred to Republicans as “terrorists.” Not to mention President Obama referring to Tea Party people as “teabaggers”- which means testicle lickers. While I would agree with you that “The political left hardly has the market cornered on “hating people who didn’t vote for them,” it appears to me that the upper levels of the Obama Administration exhibit this “hating people who didn’t vote for them” much more than did the upper levels of the Bush Administration.

  • hoosierpete

    Of course they knew. Obama’s the most narcissistic and spiteful person to ever reside in the White House, which by the way is still closed to the public and has been for over six months. Why would the NPS close open air monuments? Obama did this out of spite. He’s one nasty human being.

  • hoosierpete

    The tyrant part is correct. Obama definitely has an narcissistic personality disorder.

  • MeanLizzie

    You are not seriously comparing Bush using the phrase “Democrat Party” is the equivalent of what we’re hearing from Obama and his administration, are you? My father was an active, passionate Democrat and guess what he called it: the Democrat Party. Because he was a Democrat, not a Democratic. :-) Mitt Romney wasn’t president so he is irrelevant. I have never seen rhetoric like this from any party or any administration until now. “Terrorists” “arsonists” etc. And I’m pretty sure the rhetoric is purposeful. It’s being used — and will continue to be used — in order to justify an increasingly heavy hand of government. Remember those words. You heard them here, first. :-)

  • ladybird

    I agree with comments re: Obama’s narcissism. It’s sad our country is run by a petulant character. He clearly does not understand another art. The art of negotiations. He is in charge of the well-being of ALL Americans and is incapable of recognizing it. He and his staff should be working round the clock to resolve an obvious huge problem – to reach a compromise. Yet, today he went on the campaign trail for his party rather than face the opposition and negotiate.
    Yes, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, but so was prohibition, and he has made over 1,000 exemptions thus far by executive fiat! That should be a big HINT that the 2,5000-page document needs a good scrubbing down and not just shoved along to wait and see what happens.
    My hopes for his success have been completely dashed! We are a country divided and our world standing is at it’s lowest point. All due to lack of governance.

  • LisaB

    Yes, I do.

  • LisaB

    Thanks for sharing. That’s funny!
    Based on Obama’s logic the Federal government websites will now need to shut down after work hours, on weekends and Federal Holidays.

  • tofubamboo

    yes, of course he knew what he would do. The signs had been preprinted days before, so he fully intended to be spiteful, if so tame a word fits his actions.

  • tofubamboo

    just think about how Liberals called Bush every evil name in the dictionary plus extras they add for fun. and then accused him of heinous crimes.

  • Patrick

    “And I’m pretty sure the rhetoric is purposeful. It’s being used — and will continue to be used — in order to justify an increasingly heavy hand of government.”

    Heh: yeah, with the way things are going, you never know. (Shudders).

    To Augustine, below: the only Democrat I’ve voted for in years is my mayor. I actually skip a lot of the partisan offices.

  • slainte

    Yes, Yes, and Yes.

  • lweisenthal

    I thank everyone for the comments. I respectfully disagree, but it’s a fool’s errand to have a dispassionate discussion with a group of people who’d compare President Obama with Stalin and characterize the President in such vituperative, personal terms. I was under the impression that this is a religion blog and not a political blog. I avoid parishes with political homilies, and I’ve vowed to avoid web sites centered around politics, simply because, with regard to politics, too many people in this country have forgotten (or never learned) the concept of the honest difference of opinion. On the other hand, the title of this particular thread was clearly labeled as political, and I have no one to blame but myself for naively believing that a political discussion on a religious blog would be any more elevated and reasonable than a political discussion on a political blog. At a certain point along the way, political opponents became mortal enemies. Political debate used to be stimulating and informative. Now it’s a bunch of anonymous “enemies” scribbling graffiti bombs at one another.

    - Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

  • lweisenthal

    As repeatedly pointed out, ObamaCare was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President in 2009. It survived 40 attempts by the House of Representatives to repeal it. Opponents sued in many states. The case went to the US Supreme Court, which decided in favor of the law. So it is, by definition, constitutional. Then, in 2012, Mitt Romney’s number one plank was repeal of ObamaCare. Obama ran on a platform pledging to defend and implement ObamaCare. Obama won the election. The cardinal principle of democracy is that the loser in an election accepts the result of the election. If this principle is not observed, the democracy crumbles, as we’ve seen in Egypt. What the GOP is doing is nothing more than political hostage taking. They are holding the nation hostage, because they refuse to accept the result of elections and the legislative process and the judicial process. They are making a mockery of the Constitution, even as they represent that they are defending the Constitution. Meanwhile, an enormous amount of effort and expense has taken place over the past 4 years to launch ObamaCare on October 1, and all the GOP wants to do is sabotage it, because it won’t accept the cardinal principle of democracy, after 4 years of trying every political and judicial trick in the book.

    What your father called the Democratic Party isn’t relevant. The name of the party has always been the Democratic Party and not the “Democrat Party.” Democratic politicians and even ordinary Democrats like me hate it when the GOP intentionally uses the term “Democrat Party.” Republicans, including the former President, know this and that’s precisely why they persist in using the term. It’s a childish way of poking a finger into the eye.

    Terrorists take hostages and demand a ransom. That’s exactly what has been going on, again and again, as the Republicans look for opportunities to take hostages, because they won’t accept the results of elections and judicial decisions. They don’t even pay attention to the fact that a solid majority of voters don’t want the budget or debt ceiling to be held hostage in this manner. In the above context, the term “terrorist” is defensible. It’s political hyperbole. No one thinks that Biden or anyone else is accusing Cruz of building suicide vests in his garage. But what the GOP is currently engaging in is political terrorism.

    100,000 people die each year because of a lack of health insurance. That’s 1,200,000 people who have died unnecessarily since 9/11/2001. That’s more Americans who have died in all the wars this country has ever fought. How about a monument to those 1,200,000 dead Americans? That’s what ObamaCare is, and the fact that the National Park service shut down all of its parks, in part to protect them from vandalism in the absence of full security, pales with regard to deserved outrage, compared to the political terrorism now being used in an attempt to keep Americans from obtaining health insurance. The uninsured rate in Massachusetts is 2%. In Texas it is 25%. That’s millions of people at considerably extra risk to die in Texas.

    Why don’t we now ask ourselves, honestly, “what would Francis do?”

    - Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

  • slainte

    The very Congressional representatives who voted for Obamacare acknowledged that they did not read the bill before voting in favor of it, and this same group has acquired exemption from its application.

    A comment posted in a local newspaper sums up the debacle:

    “Representative Himes,

    In response to your e-mail praising Obamacare, if this program is so good, why did the Congress secure an Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) proposal to exempt yourselves from some of its provisions? (See,

    Can you secure a similar OPM proposal to exempt me, my family and friends from those provisions? As to your opposition to the budget passed by the US House of
    Representatives which defunds ObamaCare, why do you want to shut down the government in order to protect the funding of a program you exempt yourself from?”
    Orwell in his novel “Animal Farm” was astute when he observed that “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”…
    Our uber-elite Congressional representatives have forgotten that they are the employees of the people, not the dictators who impose legislation on others that they will not accept themselves.
    Not acceptable….and not American.
    NO to unjust and burdensome legislation.