When it comes to honoring our veterans and national heritage, the difference between the Obama and Trump administrations is like night and day.
After the government shutdown went into effect on Saturday, President Trump’s Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, immediately got to work ensuring America’s monuments remain open–even if it means personally doing clean-up duty, the Daily Caller reported.
The shutdown, which began after Democrats on Friday refused to vote for a stop-gap measure that would have funded the government through February 16, put most “non-essential” government employees on furlough.
That includes the majority of Zinke’s staff. Despite the sudden personnel shortage, Zinke was determined not to turn away Americans who want to visit the country’s historical sites.
“We’re not putting up barricades,” he told the Daily Caller in an interview. “Absolutely not. We’re passing out brochures until we run out of brochures. I’ll be out here everyday.”
The Interior Secretary took to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where he picked up trash and greeted veterans and other visitors at the World War II memorial.
“I spent the morning walking around, giving brochures out,” Zinke said. “I got a lot of thanks from both sides of the aisle. We will not weaponize our public lands.”
The Trump appointee’s go-to attitude is a sharp contrast to the Obama administration’s actions on national monuments during the 2013 government shutdown.
That year, the Department of the Interior controversially closed battlefields, memorials, and public parks–resulting in canceled school trips and disappointed vets.
Zinke said national monuments “belong to the people and not the government,” and vowed there will be a “significant difference” between the Obama and Trump administration’s handling of a shutdown.
Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a press release:
“National Parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures. The American public and especially our veterans who come to our nation’s capital are finding war memorials and open air parks open to the public.
“We are prioritizing access to the most accessible and most iconic areas of parks and public lands. Each park, monument, recreation area, etc will have different plans in place.”
Some former Interior officials have criticized the move. Sally Jewell, who served as Interior Secretary during the 2013 shutdown, told the Huffington Post keeping monuments open could put visitors in danger.
Zinke dismissed the concerns, and said police officers will be present at all public parks. He did note that “the visitor experience will be diminished amid the shutdown,” but pledged that “to the degree possible, we will keep our public lands open.”
Zinke also had scathing words for the Democrats’ role in provoking a government shutdown.
“It’s frustrating because were a better country than this. The government should always fund out military and public lands. The Schumer shutdown proves Democrats are willing to risk our security over an unrelated issue to public safety.”
His remarks echoed those of the president, who has lashed out at Democrats for voting against a funding bill as a way of pushing for DACA, the Obama-era program that gave work permits to illegal aliens who arrived in the country as minors.
Fortunately, America now has a White House that puts the needs of its citizens first.