On a Tuesday local news program (shown here), Representative Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.) shared his frustrations over the government shutdown that became official Monday at midnight. By Wednesday, the representative found himself the source of frustrations over a Washington, D.C.-based NBC affiliate video of him reprimanding a Park Service ranger who was following orders to prevent visitors from entering the World War II Memorial in our nation's capital.
As of today, the congressman had become a lightning rod for activists and the Vice President, whose office Tweeted that the VP had told the ranger via phone, "I'm proud of you."
Additionally, a Change.org petition calls for Neugebauer to, "correct himself and publicly apologize," and the organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) believes an ethics investigation of the congressman is in order. One presumes that requires our elected representatives in the Executive and Legislative branches of government to get to work and stop the shutdown first.
The filmed encounter prompting all of this hype happened while Neugebauer was at the Memorial, witnessing WWII Veterans being allowed to enter as other visitors were turned away. In addressing the ranger, the Texan wonders how she can stand rebuffing the visitors and follows with, "the Park Service should be ashamed of themselves." The female ranger expresses that she finds difficult it to turn visitors away but not to the extent of being ashamed for it, to which the congressman replies, "You should be," (ashamed, that is). The exchange continues for mere moments more, in a back and forth with input from both sides of the political spectrum.
For his part, in the encounter at the Memorial and his earlier news interview, Neugebauer points the finger at Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In a Thursday interview with a home-state news service, Neugebauer said, "My beef wasn't with the park ranger, my beef is with the Park Service and with the administration." The congressman says the encounter, which was videotaped out of context, comes at the end of an inquiry by Neugebauer and fellow members of Congress into why the National Park Service had erected barricades and prevented entry into the Memorial, which is in the open and does not normally restrict access.
The Memorial has found itself at the center of the government shutdown battle, which entered Day 4 on Friday. On Tuesday, a group of deserving WWII vets refused to be barred from their objective of visiting their Memorial, prompting the Park Service to permit entry by those and other WWII servicemen and women under consideration of their First Amendment rights.
Thank you Veterans, for all that you have done and continue to do! Please permit me to reference a different Memorial in service of a WWII-era message that may carry some gravitas...
[Images via World War II Museum official Facebook and YouTube.]