Three buses of World War II veterans (and some volunteers) arrived at the World War II Memorial at 11 a.m. Almost all were from Missouri or Illinois, according to Honor Flight, which charters and runs these journeys for aging veterans. Before we descend into the mucky-muck of politics, let's remember that it should be about these guys. I met a Navy man who landed on Okinawa, so my day's pretty much made.
Now, on to the great Optics wars. The Mall in Washington is currently sort-of-kind-of blocked off to tourists. At various points, flimsy barricades prevent them from entering memorials. How flimsy? Here's how the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which has not been the subject of a political foofarah, now looks.
The foofarah is reserved for the World War II Memorial, where mostly Republican members of Congress are showing up to make a show of removing the barricade when Honor Flight delegations show up. The Honor Flights bring World War II veterans to D.C., and are often accompanied, without much media fanfare, by members of Congress from their states. Rep. Michele Bachmann was the first member on site today, even though the delegations were not from Minnesota.
Day one of the protest had made news, and a few locals arrived to make their "just do something already" opinion known. "They spent more effort closing this thing down than they do keeping it open!"
At 11 a.m., when the Honor Flight-ers arrived, members of Congress gathered in front of the entrance closest to the tour buses and made a show of rolling back the barricade.
This was half-welcome, half-irritating. Sen. Claire McCaskill talked openly about how annoying it was for members of Congress whose states weren't even represented in the delegation to take up space at the entrance. To wit:
It did look strange, at times, members of Congress folding into a crowd of veterans who, on a normal day, might only be accompanied by a local news crew. Here's a shot of Honor Flight-ers singing "Amazing Grace," joined by Sen. Pat Roberts and Rep. Kevin Yoder—the latter of "nude swim in the sea of Gallilee" fame.
After I left, the RNC announced that Chairman Reince Priebus would appear at the memorial to commit the party to 30 days of funds to keep the place open. If it came to that.