Politics & Policy

It’s Gotta Hurt

Tormenter-in-chief Obama amplifies the shutdown’s pain.

Editors’ note: This article has been updated since its initial publication.

As the federal shutdown grinds on, Team Obama’s message to the American people is sadly consistent: Shove it — as painfully as possible.

Obama’s strategic sadism disregards regular Americans’ basic needs and tortures those who resist. And if this damages people, so what? “We are winning,” a senior administration official told the Wall Street Journal. “It doesn’t really matter to us” how long the shutdown endures, “because what matters is the end result.”

#ad#The administration is scrambling over benefits that were denied to the bereaved families of at least 26 military servicemembers who died on duty since the October 1 shutdown. Despite Congress’s enacting and Obama’s signing pre-shutdown funding for military pay and family assistance, officials initially refused these grieving loved ones the travel and burial aid that Washington traditionally offers under such brutal circumstances. The GOP House voted unanimously Wednesday to restore this relief. Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada trivialized this House bill as being “for show,” and White House press secretary Jay Carney called it “a gimmick.” However, amid growing public outcry, Reid pushed the measure through the Senate Thursday. Until federal money actually arrives, the private Fisher House deserves national applause for underwriting this support for the loved ones of these fallen heroes.

Regarding the interruption of death gratuities for these mourning families, Representative Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.) told Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly Thursday night, “I think they wanted to do this on purpose.” Hunter — a member of the House Armed Services Committee, retired Marine Corps major, and veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — added: “The president of the United States could have fixed this with a penstroke about nine days ago, whenever they first found out about it. . . . He used our military families as pawns. It’s embarrassing and despicable.”

Rather than an innocent bureaucratic mix-up, this disgrace appears to be the latest example of Obama and company needlessly using the shutdown to hammer innocent Americans, blame Republicans, and advance Democratic campaign prospects between now and the 2014 midterm elections.

“We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can,” a frustrated National Park Service (NPS) ranger told the Washington Times as the shutdown commenced. “It’s disgusting.”

While the NPS deployed personnel to oversee Tuesday’s Democrat-rich immigration-reform rally on the National Mall, it has pounded everyone not explicitly allied with Obama. In the shutdown’s early hours, NPS notoriously spent time and money to shutter the World War II Memorial and prevent wheelchair-bound nonagenarian veterans from touring this tribute to the Greatest Generation.

“This is an open-air memorial that the public has 24/7 access to under normal circumstances,” Representative Steven Palazzo (R., Miss.) stated. “It actually requires more effort and expense to shut out these veterans from their Memorial than it would simply to let them through.” Palazzo phoned federal authorities on the veterans’ behalf and was stonewalled. “At first I thought it was a huge bureaucratic oversight,” Palazzo told The Daily Caller, “but having talked with the officials, I can’t help but think this was politically motivated.”

If Obama were benevolent, he could have turned this to his political advantage.

The GOP closed the government, Obama could have said, but the people will keep it open. He could have invited volunteers from the American Legion to the Rotary Club to stand watch and assist visitors at the World War II monument, the Vietnam War Memorial, and other solemn sites. Americans would have rushed in to help. Instead, Mean Mr. Obama chose to shower the people with inconvenience and obstruction.

At privately funded Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, the NPS has blockaded its parking lot. It closed the privately owned Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean, Va. Elderly citizens have been forced from their private homes on federal acreage on Lake Mead, in Nevada.

The NPS demanded the closure of San Francisco’s beautiful Cliff House, a 150-year-old restaurant with stunning Pacific views through its windows and savory food on its tables. Though privately funded, owned, and operated, it occupies federal land. So Washington demanded on Tuesday that it shut its doors. Cost: $10,000 in daily losses and 170 idle workers.


“While the local Park Service officials have been sympathetic and helpful in relaying Cliff House’s concerns to Park Service Headquarters in Washington DC,” the owners explained, “the decisions are driven by DC, which instructed that the facility must close. . . . The Cliff House had no choice but to close or face severe consequences,” as yet unspecified.

The NPS also scrapped the 30th annual LEAP Sandcastle Contest on adjacent Ocean Beach. “We were told that we could be fined for trespassing and that our permit was no longer valid,” organizers stated. “We were also told that our event could be shut down by park rangers or by San Francisco police.” San Francisco supervisor Eric Mar said Washington’s intransigence has led to “probably hundreds of very sad and unhappy kids.”

#ad#A group of largely elderly visitors to Yellowstone National Park suffered the NPS’s totalitarian methods. Armed rangers prevented these tourists from photographing bison and the Old Faithful geyser. They were forbidden to leave their hotel within Yellowstone. Some foreigners in the group believed they were under arrest.

As the group left Yellowstone, according to John Macone’s stunning dispatch in the Newburyport [Massachusetts] Daily News, their bus “was not allowed to halt at all along the 2.5-hour trip out of the park, not even to stop at private bathrooms that were open along the route.”

A lavatory-equipped private dude ranch within Yellowstone, Macone wrote, “had been warned that its license to operate would be revoked if it allowed the bus to stop.”

“We’ve become a country of fear, guns and control,” complained Pat Vaillancourt, an older Bostonian visitor. She added: “It was like they brought out the armed forces.”

Team Obama is using the shutdown to squeeze non-uniformed Catholic priests who assist on-duty Catholic military chaplains. “With the government shutdown, many GS [general service] and contract priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide are not permitted to work — not even to volunteer,” writes John Schlageter, general counsel of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. “During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base, and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so.”

The Republican-controlled House voted 400 to 1 on October 5 to end this impasse and let outside priests worship with their military flocks. Alas, that bill is not en route to Obama for signature. Instead, it languishes in the Democratic Senate.

Until public outrage made them reactivate it, the Justice Department disabled its Amber Alert website, a repository of information on missing children. At the time, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move website remained online.

Yes, childhood obesity is rampant, and the First Lady correctly urges youngsters to exercise. However, missing children too often face fates far worse than being overweight. Leaving vanished and abducted girls and boys even more vulnerable — to score political points — may be the most revolting thing I have witnessed in 35 years of analyzing U.S. public affairs.

Obama’s current first-do-some-harm policy mirrors his harm offensive as budget sequestration began. Foreshadowing almost verbatim that park ranger’s recent remarks, a frustrated FAA staffer revealed last April, “The FAA management has stated in meetings that they need to make the furloughs as hard as possible for the public so that they understand how serious it is.”

Thus, Obama subjected American travelers to airport delays and even toyed with air-traffic control until Congress forced officials to prioritize passenger safety and convenience. Obama planned to furlough federal food inspectors, and thus leave Americans vulnerable to spoiled meat, until Congress stopped him. And, soon before sequestration began on March 1, the Department of Homeland Security released 2,232 illegal-alien detainees, 629 of them convicted criminals.

All of this seemed intended to smear the GOP, although Americans soon found sequestration manageable. Today’s Obama-led agony also looks designed to generate public fury against Republicans, who have passed at least 18 bills to reopen the government and/or fund specific shutdown-hampered functions. Senate Democrats have ignored or defeated these measures, and even if they did pass them, Obama seems uninterested in signing them.

Obama is a presidential first: a sadist-in-chief who abuses the American people purely for partisan gain.

— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor, a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock — Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.