Although President Obama claims that he can’t avoid shutting down public sites and monuments, war memorials were in fact kept open during the 1995/1996 government shutdowns. The administration’s decision to barricade the Lincoln Memorial marks the first time in its history the memorial has been totally off limits to visitors during a shutdown.
The administration has also balked at efforts by non-governmental groups to maintain access to public sites. (Related: RNC offers to pay to keep WWII memorial open)
But during the Clinton-era shutdown, World War II veterans kept the Pearl Harbor memorial open.
“Despite the federal government shutdown and an unrepaired sign that reads ‘Arizona Memorial closed,’ tourists are still getting expert commentary about the World War II memorial at Pearl Harbor,” wrote the Associated Press on January 1, 1996.
“It’s our way of helping to preserve the history of this place,” Bob Kinzler, president of the Aloha Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors, told the AP.
Barricades went up in national parks across Washington, D.C. Wednesday, including the Lincoln Memorial. This, too, was unprecedented.
A photo of the Lincoln Memorial during the government shutdown of 1995 shows the info booth closed but tourists still had access to the grounds.
It is not clear how much taxpayer money the Obama administration is paying to ensure that government sites and services remain shuttered to taxpayers. Popular Washington spots such as the World War II memorial are now guarded by more security personnel than they are during normal operations, while federal employees have been dispatched to put up barricades on capital bike paths and other public grounds that are not usually patrolled at all.
Obama’s team has also been caught deliberately punishing World War II veterans trying to visit their own memorial, with one administration official telling a veteran’s supporter, “It’s a government shutdown, what do you expect?”
The American people are currently paying for eight mounted cops to keep people out of the World War II memorial.
Daniel Burnett, a volunteer with Honor Flight, sent The Daily Caller FOAIed documents showing how much the Park Service is spending on the mounted police. To house, feed, and care for the horses it costs more than $41,000 year. Park police starting salary is $52,020, according to their website.
Another unprecedented aspect of the current shutdown is that the president has until Wednesday evening refused any discussions with the opposition leadership. In 1995 and 1996 President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich negotiated vigorously and struck several compromises, such as 75-percent funding plan that lasted more than a month.
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Charles D. Johnson is a contributor at the Daily Caller.