Things have not been going well at the White House. The rollout of Obamacare is not working. The mainstream media, finally, became its biggest critic. Former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs said: “This is excruciatingly embarrassing.”
I’ve known all along that it wouldn’t work. How did I know? It’s really simple. When you think Obamacare, think DMV and the post office.
President Obama was fuming. He blamed the Republicans for this unmitigated disaster. For starters, he refused to negotiate on the looming debt crisis. But apparently that was not enough. He wanted everybody to feel his pain.
The government then shut down our national parks, such as Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone and my beloved Yosemite. The staffs of these parks were furloughed but park rangers, who apparently were still on duty, went a little too far. Brett Baier reported on Fox News that the park rangers had received orders to make it as painful as they could.
At Mount Rushmore, park rangers placed orange cones along the highway viewing areas, barring visitors from pulling over and taking photos.
At Yellowstone, park rangers prevented tourists from taking photos of Old Faithful and even bison. The rangers ordered the tourists to return to their hotels and remain inside. All that is unfortunate, but the actions toward veterans and military families qualify as the outrage of the century.
The World War II Memorial is an open-air monument accessible to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No staff is needed to provide access. No one was furloughed because of the government shutdown. Someone ordered that barricades be put up to prevent anyone from gaining access.
There is an organization called Honor Flight. Since 2005, its mission has been to fly as many World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit their memorial at no cost to them. It’s a race against time. Six-hundred-forty World War II veterans die every day. To find out more about this remarkable organization, you can rent Honor Flight on Amazon.com. It costs $3.99. I must warn you. It will move you to tears. Also, if you can volunteer or make a donation, go to HonorFlight.org.
Practically everyone on Capitol Hill and in the White House knows about Honor Flight. Each trip requires months of advance planning. When an Honor Flight of World War II veterans arrived, they were turned away. The word quickly spread. A million-veteran march was planned. Last weekend, the veterans showed up and took down the barricades. The police and park rangers did not interfere.
And the vindictiveness did not stop there. In advance of the government shutdown, Congress passed a law making sure that death benefits would be paid to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. But when it came time to pay, Veterans Affairs was ordered not to. When asked, the White House claimed the law was confusing.
Ed Henry, senior White House correspondent for Fox News Channel, was relentless in his questioning of Jay Carney about this. Carney found himself on the defensive as he hemmed and hawed in his pathetic explanation. I saw it on television. Maybe it was just me but I could have sworn he was paraphrasing Elizabeth Barrett Browning: How do I hate thee, Let me count the ways.
This did not go down well with the public. One intrepid reporter said that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel could have prevented this but he didn’t. Obama could have taken a few minutes to sign a presidential directive guaranteeing the benefits but he didn’t.
The Fisher House Foundation, best known for a network of comfort homes where families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment, heard about this appalling insult and came to the rescue. They agreed to pay the $100,000 benefit. That disaster averted, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki stepped up with another. He announced that if the government shutdown continued into late October, some 315,000 veterans and 202,000 surviving spouses and dependents would see pension payments stopped.
Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, chair of the V.A. Committee, questioned this. “We’ve had some difficulty in the last couple of weeks getting good information about VA’s contingency plan and the effects a lapse in appropriation would have on veterans.”
The House had foreseen this and passed legislation that would provide veterans disability, pension and other benefits if the shutdown was prolonged. But the White House urged lawmakers not to take a piecemeal approach to continuing government services.
This is unbelievable. Our veterans deserve better.
Chuck McDougald headed the Veterans Coalition, first for California, then for the Western Region, when Sen. John McCain ran for president in 2008. In 2010, he served as Statewide Volunteer Chair for Carly Fiorina’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. He is currently the Western Region director for ConcernedVeteransforAmerica.org and is a member of the National Rifle Association. He lives in South San Francisco with his wife and two kids.