The cheap tricks of the game

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

The games politi­cians play: Barack Obama is hav­ing a lot of fun us­ing the gov­ern­ment shut­down to squeeze the pub­lic in imag­i­na­tive ways. The point of the shut­down game is to see who can squeeze hard­est, make the most pious speech and lis­ten for the ap­plause. It’s a vari­a­tion on the grade-school rit­ual of “you show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.”

Pres­i­dent Obama is not a bad poker player, but the man with all the chips al­ways starts with the ad­van­tage (and he gets all the aces). He has closed Wash­ing­ton down as tight as he dares, em­pha­siz­ing the triv­ial and the petty in mak­ing life as in­con­ve­nient as he can for the great­est num­ber. It’s all in a noble cause, of course. Ac­cess to most of the memo­ri­als is lim­ited, and of­ten in cu­ri­ous ways. The Lin­coln Me­mo­rial is easy to reach, with the streets around it re­main­ing open. But the Martin Luther King Me­mo­rial is made dif­fi­cult to reach, rel­e­gat­ing it, you might say, to the back of the bus. Not very nice.

The Park Ser­vice ap­pears to be clos­ing streets on mere whim and caprice. The rangers even closed the park­ing lot at Mount Ver­non, where the plan­ta­tion home of Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton is a fa­vorite tourist desti­na­tion. That was af­ter they barred the new World War II Me­mo­rial on the Mall to vet­er­ans of World War II. But the gov­ern­ment does not own Mount Ver­non; it is pri­vately owned by the Mount Ver­non Ladies’ As­so­ci­a­tion. The ladies bought it years ago to pre­serve it as a na­tional me­mo­rial. The feds closed ac­cess to the park­ing lots this week, even though the lots are jointly owned with the Mount Ver­non ladies. The rangers are from the gov­ern­ment, and they’re only here to help.

“It’s a cheap way to deal with the sit­u­a­tion,” an an­gry Park Ser­vice ranger in Wash­ing­ton says of the ha­rass­ment. “We’ve been told to make life as dif­fi­cult for peo­ple as we can. It’s dis­gust­ing.”

The Repub­li­cans, fight­ing with smaller-bore weaponry, keep try­ing to get some things re­opened with care­fully tar­geted leg­is­la­tion. The Se­nate, un­der the thumbs of Sen. Harry Reid and the White House, re­fuses to budge from the triv­ial and the petty. It says here that Harry Reid’s crit­ics, and they are le­gion, should give the guy a break. No man in Wash­ing­ton is un­der the pres­sure he is, and it doesn’t seem quite cricket to do that to an old man, even one who de­serves it.

Harry is at the break­ing point, weary from ex­haust­ing his th­e­saurus for syn­onyms for “ar­son­ist” and “ter­ror­ist” and “pil­lager.” Ev­ery­one could see the cracks in his ex­change with Dana Bash, a reporter for CNN, who asked why, if he is con­cerned about chil­dren with can­cer who are un­able to en­ter clin­i­cal tri­als for new drugs be­cause Mr. Obama shut down the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health, why sti­fle Repub­li­can at­tempts to grant a lit­tle relief?

“If you can help one child who has can­cer, why wouldn’t you do it?” the reporter asked.

“Why would we want to do that?” Mr. Reid snapped back. “I have 1,100 peo­ple at Nel­lis Air Force Base that are sit­ting home. They have a few prob­lems of their own. This is — to have some­one of your in­tel­li­gence to sug­gest such a thing maybe means you’re ir­re­spon­si­ble and reck­less.”

Over the next two days, Mr. Reid tried to take back, change, ad­just and re­cal­i­brate his re­marks. It’s all John Boehner’s fault. The se­na­tor cares not just about the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health, but the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol, too. The se­na­tor likes ba­bies. In fact, he’s quite a stud. And he thinks Dana Bash is “a fine reporter.”

“Lis­ten, I gave a speech on the [Se­nate] floor, talk­ing about ba­bies, 30 ba­bies. I have 16 of my own grand­chil­dren, and five chil­dren.” So suf­fer the lit­tle chil­dren, and they will in­herit the king­dom of heaven; they just can’t come unto the Se­nate while Harry stands in the door. (If what hap­pens in Las Ve­gas is sup­posed to stay in Las Ve­gas, how did Harry get out?)

Frus­tra­tion turned vi­o­lent Thurs­day, when a woman rammed her car into a bar­ri­cade at the White House and then led 20 po­lice cruis­ers up Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue to take a run at the Capi­tol. Shots were fired. It was not quite clear what she was mad about, but there’s no short­age of prospects. No tar­gets of her rage were hurt, though the cops killed her. It was an un­happy third day of Oba­macare. Wes­ley Pruden is ed­i­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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