This week the Obama Administration began erecting steel barricades to keep veterans, families and visitors out of popular open-air monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial and World War II Memorial. Despite the fact that these are open-air sites that are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and are only staffed by Park Rangers during certain hours of the day, the Obama Administration nevertheless chose to completely shut them off to the public while blaming the government shutdown.
However, the open-air Memorials along with National Mall WERE NOT closed during the last government shutdown in 1995-1996. According to the Associated Press in an article from December 17, 1995:
"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."
This picture below from 1995 shows how the visitors' information center at the Lincoln Memorial was closed during the shutdown, but the public was still able to visit the site. This makes perfect sense. What the Obama Administration is doing now does not.
As House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings said on the House floor earlier this week:
"The Obama Administration's closing of these sites is not something they are required to do, it's something they are CHOOSING to do. The Obama Administration wants the effects of this government shutdown to be as painful as possible, so they are going out of their way to make it so."
So why is the Obama Administration choosing to do this? Former Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton offered this insight:
"The National Park Service has a long history of dramatizing budget issues by inconveniencing the public. They often choose the most dramatic type of action in order to get their message across. It's something I had to guard against when I was secretary -- not letting them play budget games."