Follow Up to “I Rest My Case”

Two entries ago I said I was beginning a series of posts about education, and it is still my intention to get back to that ASAP. With all of the shenanigans going on with the shutdown of the federal government, though, I had to speak up on that. And even though I said at the end of that post that I was resting my case, I need to add just a few more thoughts.

Numerous examples have emerged over the weekend of additional ridiculous moves by the Obama administration to make the shutdown as public and as painful as necessary. One example is the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada and Arizona. The Henderson Press reported on the closing, including the fact that in addition to the closing of the “visitor center, campgrounds, marinas, trails and launch ramps” the folks who own property within the park are also being evicted and are barred from entering their personal property only to retrieve belongings. “Those with personal property within the park, such as boats, trailers or cabins, will be allowed access into the park to either remove their vessels or trailers or to remove belongings from their property,” the Henderson Press reported. Las Vegas station KTNV also reported on the Lake Mead closing, specifically spotlighting Ralph and Joyce Spencer. The Spencers, age 80 and 77 respectively, have owned their home since the 1970’s but the home sits on federal land. Thus, “even though the Spencers own their cabin outright, they’re not allowed in until the government reopens.” Now, according to the report, “The Lake Mead properties are considered vacation homes; one of the lease requirements to own a plot is people must have an alternative residence.” Be that as it may, the shutdown of the federal government cannot be used to justify evicting people from their own property.

The Independent Journal Review, the Washington Post and other news sites also reported that the Department of Justice web site that provides information on the AMBER Alerts was shut down, too. Now the alerts themselves were still operation, but the information DOJ web site was shut down. As of this morning that site is fully operational again, leading me to believe that the outcry over shutting down a web site specifically designed to provide information about kidnapped children was effective. Nice to know the elected officials listen once in a while! However, a service designed to assist protect the lives of abducted children should never have been allowed to be used for political purposes.

Interestingly–as pointed our by several other news sites–First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” web site was never shut down. Now the most recent post on the site’s blog was posted on September 30, so perhaps the site is not being updated, but that fact that it has remained up and operational while so many other government web sites have been shut down speaks volumes on its own. At the site is a government site; its address is http://www.letsmove.gov. As the IJ Review story stated, “Apparently, in the mixed up world of Team Obama’s priorities, continuing to tell America’s kids what to eat and how to exercise is ‘essential’ – while helping to locate missing children who may be in grave danger is not. Go figure.”

You may also have seen the wide-spread story over the weekend that the government is shutting down eleven hundred miles of ocean. Yep, you read that right…the government is shutting down the ocean…specifically, Florida Bay. Charter boat captains who make their living taking folks out into the bay to fish or enjoy the water cannot do so until the government reopens, and there are rangers on duty to enforce the ban. As with so many other examples already mentioned, enforcing the shutdown is going to cost more than allowing normal activities to continue would ever have cost!

Now, in the midst of all of this an anonymous employee of the National Park Service has reportedly stated this: “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.” Now, I do not know the name of the ranger who purportedly said this, nor can I verify its accuracy. All I know is that it has been widely reported. And if this statement is true–if the NPS has issued such instructions to its personnel, it is violating the law. If President Obama has given that order, or sanctioned it, he should be impeached. And I will not make a long, drawn out explanation as to why. Instead, I will present it very simply, in four easy steps:

One, the Preamble to the United States Constitution reads, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (The unusual capitalization and spelling of “defense” comes directly from the original text, which you are welcome to read for yourself on the National Archives web site which is, oddly enough, still operating).

Two, the presidential oath of office, according to Article II of the Constitution, is, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” (The ending “so help me God” is not in the Constitution, but was added by George Washington and has been added ever since).

Three, Section 4 of Article II of the Constitution reads, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Four, there is simply no way to convincingly argue that shutting down open air monuments, evicting people from their privately-owned homes and other examples outlined above and in the previous post are promoting the general welfare or ensuring domestic tranquility. Since they are not, President Obama is not faithfully executing the duties of his office nor is he preserving, protecting or defending the Constitution. Therefore, per the Constitution, he should be impeached, for there can be no higher crime a president of United States could commit than to knowingly and willingly violate the Constitution.

I Rest My Case

Alright, I’ve waited long enough. I cannot help it; I just have to say something. The way in which the Obama administration has handled the government shut down would be laughable but for the fact that it is actually incredibly offensive and, in fact, illegal. That’s right, illegal. Find that hard to believe? Read on…

This past Tuesday, October 1, the Obama administration ordered the closing of national parks as part of the shutdown. While unfortunate, that is understandable since park rangers and other park employees are not “essential” government workers. However, the National Park Service also erected barricades around the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. This memorial is an open-air monument on the National Mall. It is usually open 24 hours a day, seven days a week whether there are any Park Service personnel present or not. The around-the-clock accessibility of the memorial is clearly stated on the National WWII Memorial web site.

The sign posted on the barricades read, “Because of the Federal Government SHUTDOWN, All National Parks Are CLOSED.” The WWII Memorial, though, is not a national park. It is a memorial that is “operated” by the National Park Service, but that word “operated” means something entirely different for an open-air memorial with no services offered than it does for a national park requiring admissions collectors, custodians, park rangers, etc. There is absolutely nothing about the WWII Memorial that requires regular “operation.”

What’s more, the construction of the WWII Memorial was funded almost entirely by private donations, not by government money, as outlined in Public Law 103-32. Part of the $182 million cost of the monument included a National Park Service maintenance fee as required by the Commemorative Works Act. Interestingly, part of that act (40 USC § 8901) reads that the purposes of the act include, “to ensure the continued public use and enjoyment of open space in the District of Columbia and its environs, and to encourage the location of commemorative works within the urban fabric of the District of Columbia.” A bit difficult for the public to use and enjoy the memorial when the NPS erects barricades and will not let anyone in. So what is that maintenance fee and what is it for? According to the Commemorative Works Act, no permit for construction of a memorial will be granted “unless the sponsor authorized to construct the commemorative work has donated an amount equal to 10 percent of the total estimated cost of construction to offset the costs of perpetual maintenance and preservation of the commemorative work.” So there were funds–millions of dollars, in fact–that were privately raised and are on deposit with the U.S. Treasury specifically for the purpose of “maintaining” the WWII Memorial. And what does that mean exactly? “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, money on deposit in the Treasury on the date of enactment of the Commemorative Works Clarification and Revision Act of 2003 provided by a sponsor for maintenance pursuant to this subsection shall be credited to a separate account in the Treasury.” It would be extremely difficult for anyone to convincingly argue that maintenance of the memorial does not include keeping it open to the public, and the money to do that is sitting in the Treasury in a “separate account,” earmarked for that purpose.

A lapse in government funding and a temporary government shut down are not pleasant, but they are not unprecedented, either. There have been more than a dozen such lapses during my life time, ranging from a day to three weeks. According to the Office of Management and Budget and the Justice Department such shutdowns cannot interfere with essential government functions such as national defense and the protection of life and property. Neither can they interfere with the payment of government obligations like Social Security and veterans benefits.

However, President Obama has made it his mission to identify the most public displays of the consequences of the government shutdown in an effort to shift public opinion in his favor. That is why the Lincoln Memorial was also closed to visitors. National Park News has a photo depicting workers erecting barriers and temporary fencing to keep visitors off of the Lincoln Memorial despite that it, too, is usually open whether or not NPS personnel are present. In fact, a newspaper report about the 1995 government shutdown by Associated Press writer Cassandra Burrell includes this statement: “Tourists were free to wander the halls of the Capitol, touch the walls of the Vietnam Memorial and climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to read the Gettysburg Address–those and other similar sites don’t require supervision by federal employees.” Apparently the president thinks now, eighteen years later, such supervision is required. The problem is, all efforts at explaining why it is are nothing less that pathetic. To wit…the need for CPR-trained personnel to be present.

I am not making that up, by the way. CNN’s Jake Tapper reported on his blog, The Lead with Jake Tapper, this explanation for the WWII Memorial closing by National Mall and Memorial parks spokeswoman Carol Johnson: “I know that this is an open-air memorial, but we have people on staff who are CPR trained, (and) we want to make sure that we have maintenance crew to take care of any problems. What we’re trying to do is protect this resource for future generations.” Please… There are plenty of people around Washington, DC who are CPR-trained. It’s not as if the emergency services and hospitals are closed. As for the maintenance crews, see above.

So intent are President Obama and his appointees to provide the most public demonstrations possible of the shutdown’s effects that the NPS attempted to shut down George Washington’s Mount Vernon on Tuesday, too. The problem is, Mount Vernon is privately owned. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association owns and operates the historic site and has for some one hundred and fifty years. To be fair to the president, the parking lots at Mount Vernon are jointly owned by the NPS and Mount Vernon. Perhaps CPR-trained personnel need to be present in order for people to park their cars. The NPS removed most of their barricades once they were informed that they had no authority to blockade Mount Vernon.

Further evidence of the idiocy of the president’s strategic closing of federal property includes the shutting down of numerous hiking and biking trails around D.C. that typically have no personnel present and require no immediate maintenance. NPS officers were stationed along the 184-mile Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to make sure that no one used the bike paths. Please note that it is requiring more man power to shut the trails down than it ever would have to leave them open! The National Park Service, Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies have also taken the time (and spent the money) to create new pages on their web sites that visitors to the sites will see, informing them that due to the government shutdown the web sites are shut down as well. I kid you not; try to visit the NPS web site and you will get this message: “Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed and National Park Service webpages are not operating. For more information, go to http://www.doi.gov.” Funny how there were enough funds to keep the Department of the Interior web site up and running. Earlier today I tried to log on to an online survey from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences that the government has asked me, as a private school administrator, to complete. No can do, though: “Due to a lapse of appropriations and the partial shutdown of the Federal Government, the systems that host surveys.nces.ed.gov have been shut down. Services will be restored as soon as a continuing resolution to provide funding has been enacted.”

Believe it or not, I could go on, but I think I’ll stop. I think I have presented sufficient evidence, and I rest my case. I ask you, the readers of my blog, and millions of my fellow Americans, to find the president guilty of once again violating his oath of office, derelict in his duties, and actually breaking the law.