‘Make it painful’ is petty strategy

We’ve been clear that we believe House Republicans’ attempt to force defunding of Obamacare by shutting down the government is a strategic and political mistake and will backfire on the GOP.

But never underestimate the ability of politicians to pursue their own foolish and hurtful strategy. The administration of President Barack Obama is doing just that with its policy of trying to cause as much public pain as possible in its handling of the government shutdown.

The refusal of the Bureau of Land Management to allow Colorado Mesa University to hold an already-permitted bicycle race on BLM land near Grand Junction this past weekend is a case in point. It was a petty and unnecessary refusal to honor an existing permit, especially since no BLM personnel were required to monitor the bike race.

On Monday, the sponsors of a competitive horse trail ride scheduled for this weekend in Rabbit Valley learned that their event has also been cancelled by the BLM due to the shutdown.

Public pain inflicted across the nation

The BLM action on these events is part what appears to be a nationwide strategy by the Obama team to make the shutdown as painful as possible to the American public, then harvest political hay by blaming Republicans. One Park Service Ranger told the Washington Times last week, “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can.”

The initial, and highly embarrassing, example of that strategy came a week ago, when the National Park Service erected barricades and attempted to prevent World War II veterans from visiting the World War II Memorial. After considerable bad publicity and complaints from members of Congress, the Park Service backed off on that effort, saying belatedly, “Of course the memorial is open to World War II veterans.”

But the “make it painful” strategy is still in effect elsewhere.

✔ The Park Service has refused an offer from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to have that state pay for operations of Grand Canyon National Park during the shutdown.

✔ Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee are investigating reports that Park Service officials have needlessly blocked access to private businesses operating without federal funds but within national park boundaries.

✔  There are numerous reports of other questionable actions, from closing the Forest Service parking lot for Maroon Bells in Pitkin County, to attempting to close state parks in Wisconsin because some of their funding comes from the federal government (Wisconsin refused to allow the closures), to temporarily blocking the parking lot at the privately owned and funded Mount Vernon Estate, George Washington’s home in Virginia.


CMU’s loss in legal fight ‘a tragedy’


In most of these cases, the only challenge to the closures came through the media or political arenas. But CMU chose to take its beef with the BLM to federal court. Last week, it asked for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order to prevent the BLM from blocking the bike race.

The university lost its legal bid when U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger rejected the injunction. Krieger determined that the BLM hadn’t abused its discretion in halting the race. However, she described her own decision as “a tragedy,” according to CMU attorney Mike Feeley.

We certainly agree with her in that regard. For one thing, as mentioned earlier, the BLM wasn’t required to have personnel present to monitor the race. Additionally, the decision to halt the race was a direct contradiction of the BLM’s Sept. 25 contingency plan for dealing with a possible government shutdown. That plan said that events with previously approved permits could continue as long as they don’t need BLM field monitoring and regulatory oversight.

But, then consistency and fairness mean nothing when there is a political goal to make the other party look bad.

Don’t be surprised if polls this week begin to show more and more Americans holding Democrats responsible for the problems caused by the shutdown as a result of this petty strategy.


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Today’s Sentinel editorial (“’Make it painful’ is petty strategy”) was itself profoundly “petty” (ala FoxNoise) – if not journalistically dishonest as to the true implications of the government “shutdown” and “debt ceiling” crises.

If the Sentinel honestly believes that “House Republicans’ attempt to force defunding of Obamacare by shutting down the government is a strategic and political mistake”, then it should also conclude that the “Tea Party” strategy to “make it painful” for millions of Americans (if not the world economy) goes beyond “petty” – it is political extortion.

Thus, to imply a false equivalency between Repugnicans’ overt threats to refuse raising the debt ceiling and anecdotal evidence of foreseeable “shutdown” inconveniences is irresponsible.  If she was quoted accurately, Judge Krieger’s use of the term “tragic” to describe her ruling was just as inapt as some rightly-exasperated (of unknown partisan persuasion) mid-level federal bureaucrat’s alleged instructions to “make it painful”.

Guidance for conducting an orderly shutdown of the government is provided in Office of Management & Budget (“OMB”) Circular No. A-11 (last revised in August 2011), which requires every federal agency to have a detailed “shutdown plan” posted on the Internet. 

Thus, the real questions to be answered by the Sentinel’s reporters and/or by any hearings before the House’s Natural Resources Committee is whether the reported Forest Service incidents really occurred as described, and whether the agency’s action was consistent with its posted plan – as Judge Krieger apparently found was indeed the case with the BLM’s withdrawal of approval for CMU’s collegiate bike race. 

To imply a White House strategy to “make it painful” is preposterous.  Given previous episodes, the likely findings will be no more “scandalous” than Darrell Issa’s futile “witch hunts” over “Fast and Furious”, Benghazi “talking points”, and Sentinel-swallowed bogus allegations that the IRS had “targeted” conservative political groups.

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