The federal government shutdown has lasted nearly two weeks, but the Washington blame game is still open for business.
Hundreds of demonstrators pushed past barricades at the sealed-off World War II Memorial Sunday as part of a “Million Vet March” to protest the closing of war memorials, a demonstration that extended to the White House.
In a shutdown that has touched hundreds of thousands of federal workers, working parents, young students and home buyers, the closing of national monuments has proved to be a particular point of grievance for conservatives in the battle to leverage political blame for the impasse.
Sunday’s march, though perhaps small by Washington’s standards, nonetheless won the attention of the tea party’s usual champions.
“Watching those who have fought to protect freedom prevented by barricades from visiting these memorials to freedom was truly heart wrenching,” former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin said in a Facebook post after attending the event.
“Seeing the unity of the American people as they joined together and rose up against this out of touch government was an inspiration,” Palin added. “God bless our veterans, those who continue to serve, and their families.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), one of the Senate’s most aggressive voices in pushing the Obama administration over cutting spending, joined the veterans, who were sponsored by various tea party groups, and added on Twitter that it was “an honor to join them today at memorials honoring their service.”
Demonstrators just tore down barricades to WWII Memorial pic.twitter.com/LgUOZbbvCN— Jamie Forzato (@jamieforzato) October 13, 2013
Million Vet March w/ Cruz, Lee, Congressman Steve Stockman & Gov. Sarah Palin @SarahPalinUSA @SenTedCruz @SenMikeLee pic.twitter.com/hQ9i5kw6Je— Rep. Steve Stockman (@SteveWorks4You) October 13, 2013
So what’s a protest with just a few hundred demonstrators? Well, start with one image that went viral among conservatives on Sunday.
A veteran paraplegic on a Segway is helping carry a barricade #1MVetMarch pic.twitter.com/3gDx7uZGQn— Andrew Creech (@andrewbcreech) October 13, 2013
Robert Costa, the Washington editor of the National Review, reported that House conservatives were viewing Sunday’s march as a “game-changer.”
If you can’t fathom my report about Right enthusiasm/#war mentality following memorial protests, go ask a righty lawmaker, or check out...— Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) October 13, 2013
... front pages of Breitbart, Twitchy, Drudge, Blaze, Townhall, Daily Caller, etc— Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) October 13, 2013
When I say “big story,” I mean big story to those on Right on Hill who have some sway/decisions to make in the coming days— Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) October 13, 2013
That’s what I’m reporting: this vet/Palin/Cruz memorial protest story is going viral quickly on right, will shape House GOP scene on M & T— Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) October 13, 2013
@noamscheiber I’m very serious. Activists, right flank of House now tell me they’re now winning PR war vs WH, “fight on"— Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) October 13, 2013
Although conservatives made a lot of noise about the meaning of the event, some moderates and the left had a different take on it.
1. Shutdown the government. 2. Complain that shutdown is bad for veterans. 3. … 4. Profit!— Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) October 13, 2013
Ted Cruz going to the Mall protest today and railing against gov shutdown is like O.J. Simpson searching for the real killers.— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) October 13, 2013
Blowback began to focus on one picture in particular, of a demonstrator carrying a Confederate flag outside the White House.
Pro tip: If you want to express your love of US Army & its monuments … leave the Confederate flag at home. pic.twitter.com/dyByu9av51— davidfrum (@davidfrum) October 13, 2013
...At which point the debate online started to get a little more reproachful, messy, and generally weird.
In many parts of America, waving a Confederate flag outside the home of a black family would be considered a very hostile act.— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) October 13, 2013
Give liberals this: They figured out that the one clown with a Confederate flag on Pa. Ave. is the true leader of American conservatism.— Timothy P Carney (@TPCarney) October 13, 2013
Symbolic closure of WW2 memorial prompts symbolic protest, leading to symbolic argument over Confederate flag. So, health care.— Jesse Walker (@notjessewalker) October 13, 2013