Tea Party’s War Memorial Rally Was Another ‘Let Him Die!’ Moment

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Tea Party activist and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at a rally in front of the World War II Memorial in Washington Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

On Sunday, several hundred – or perhaps a couple of thousand – tea party activists, led by such luminaries of the right as Sarah Palin, Rep. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), hijacked a march organized by a non-partisan veterans’ group and held an angry demonstration at the National World War II Memorial against the shutdown that Cruz and Lee had engineered and tea partiers across the country had applauded. Anger and confusion about public parks and memorials – especially that one — closing with the rest of the government’s “nonessential services” have been staples of conservative blogs and talk-radio since the shutdown began.

There’s been plenty of coverage of the impressive hypocrisy of the event, the fact that one man waved a Confederate flag in front of the home of the first African-American president and that a prominent conservative activist who was invited to speak sputtered with rage that Barack Obama should “put the Qu’ran down” and surrender his office.

Those incidents should be called out, but focusing only on those offensive displays misses a more basic truth revealed on Sunday: the utter depravity of a major political movement up in arms and rallying around meaningless symbolism (the National Park Service was already letting vets into the memorial, just not other visitors) instead of the real-world harm they themselves inflicted on American families.

It’s a clarifying moment, reminiscent of the Republican primary debate in 2011 in which Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul what should happen if a healthy person foregoes health insurance and becomes critically ill: The audience enthusiastically endorsed the idea of just letting him die.

‘Let him die!’ became a symbol of the modern conservative movement’s lack of compassion for their fellow citizens. And Sunday’s march – really the whole freak-out over memorials and national parks – should too. More than a million federal workers aren’t receiving paychecks. Private contractors are “furloughing” their workers as well – and back pay doesn’t look likely – and the direct costs of the shutdown to the government are now approaching $5 billion. It’s caused a funding crisis in domestic violence shelters. The National Institutes of Health aren’t treating cancer patients enrolled in clinical trials. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention furloughing most of its workers, a salmonella outbreak has spread to 18 states, sickening almost 300 people. New veterans’ benefits claims aren’t being processed, and the supplemental nutritional assistance program for poor women and infants is running out of money.

As we enter the shutdown’s third week, the damage is spreading to the state level where, according to Bloomberg News, they are now beginning to lay off their own workers and cut services for the poor….

Michigan is preparing to put as many as 20,000 workers on unpaid leave and eliminate cash and food aid to the poor. North Carolina sent 366 employees home and closed its nutrition aid program to tens of thousands of women and children. Illinois this week may issue furloughs to hundreds of federally funded employees, including workplace safety inspectors.

The state-level fallout shows the widening impact of the first partial U.S. government shutdown since 1996…

And with all of this needless pain being inflicted, Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz have the nerve to act as demagogues regarding the closure of a war memorial. Their blithe indifference to real suffering is as plain as shouting, “let him die!”

Joshua Holland is a senior digital producer for BillMoyers.com. He’s the author of The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America) (Wiley: 2010), and host of Politics and Reality Radio. Follow him on Twitter or drop him an email at hollandj [at] moyersmedia [dot] com.
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  • firstwife

    and she who speaks of death panels…

  • Steve Clark

    I’m glad the organizers of the Million Vet March called Cruz and Palin out for politicizing their gathering. Standing up for vets is a patriotic act, not a political one, and Cruz and Palin are anything but patriots.

  • Winona Kitto

    The two are opportunists with strong words about why the memorial is barricaded, but no emotion or genuine sense of frustration for the veterans.

  • Pete Joachim

    And yet so many of their followers don’t see the hypocrisy – I don’t know what to say to them to open their eyes…….

  • DavidW

    The grand strategy of hypocrisy is certainly making them all look like hypocrites.

  • Peggy A. Kelley

    This too shall be blamed on Obama. I don’t understand how so called Americans can tear our country apart. When all of this is done will people be able to put the pieces back together again? Don’t these people understand that a lot of people are one pay check from being on the street?

  • Dr.Teeth&TheelctricMayhem

    “US against THEM” is the problem…this is not a Blue Vs Red thing. It is a corrupt Government VS “US” thing. Hopefully one day “the people” will wake up, quit blaming party affiliation and see that we are all getting screwed!

  • Donna Hughes

    Banana Republicans.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not the big, bad gummint, bad as it is. It’s the neo-confederate Teabillies, trying to do what they failed to do in the 1860s. Didn’t work then, won’t work now. The cowardly Republicans are being led around by the Teabillies.
    It definitely is a blue vs. red thing. The southern states never got the message.

  • Anonymous

    Andrew Sullivan is right: this is secession by another means.

  • Anonymous

    You can’t open their eyes. They’re not intelligent. This is a cultural issue. Guns, stars ‘n’ bars, racism, greed, fear, hate. Nice culture to fight to preserve. It’s a religion with these Teabillies.

  • Adrian Gruber

    I fear that our Republic is in danger!

  • Anonymous

    Nailed it! They hate..that a Democrat is President, they hate..that a black man is President, and they hate..that the ACA allows women to control their reproductive choices. They’re looking for any chance to impeach Obama, even if they are the ones that create those opportunities. They are oblivious to anything other than their hate.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t even stand to read about this anymore. It is so pathetic and nonsensical. So filled with meanness. I can’t understand it. Thank you to Donna Hughes: “Banana Republicans.” Good to find humor…even in tragedy.

  • Anonymous

    Last week 5 or 6 democratic senators and congresspersons lined up like adult ‘men and women’ and were arrested during ‘a peaceful’ protest over immigration. And yet not one of the teabagger cowards Cruz or Palin were arrested for nearly insighting a riot, grand larceny, vandalism, destruction of govt property. And even more infuriating is that not one news agency has brought this up. Talk about cowards.

  • asiseeit

    When a minority of idiots can close down a government and say it’s within their rights resulting in misery for the masses, then surely that is a form of dictatorship and your country has been held to ransom. This is not Democracy.

  • Fedweb

    Lives have already been damaged irreparably. The Know-Nothings understand it, but they don’t talk about it because it doesn’t fit with their blather about overpaid Federal workers and how the shutdown doesn’t hurt anyone outside the Beltway … Never mind that many of them worked their butts off to get Federal offices located in their districts.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting that the conservative “mouthpieces/radio/TV/ talking heads (FOX paid) and and guys like Mr. Ted Cruz say thay are “pro-Vet” — but are the very reason the national parks ar closed — and vet services are not being funded — Question” Did any one of these Teaparty heros’ serve a day in unform — in a war zone? Of course, i will give a pass to Sarah — I would not have expected Ms Plain & Simple to have served her nation — she had a hard enougb time just getting thru junior collge in ten years or less with a C-.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Frank-Clarke/100000180732678 Frank Clarke

    I think Moyers misses an essential point here: none of those “monuments” had to be closed; they could be left unattended for less than it costs to keep them manned and for MUCH less than it costs to make them unavailable.

    “Closing” an open-air memorial is nothing short of vindictive.

  • Adrian Gruber

    Watch the movie about Mahatma Gandhi

  • Anonymous

    Bill Moyers has good ears. Turns out only he heard any of these things. Wasn’t reported anywhere else.

  • Anonymous

    Police are considered essential personnel. Monuments need to be cleaned and maintained and the people who do that are not essential personnel.

    Shutting down the government to block a law you don’t like is vindictive. Being surprised that things close when you shut down the government is just bizarre.

  • Matthew John

    What if any emergency occurred when they were unmanned? A fall, a heart attack, a mass shooting, who would handle it and who would be responsible?

  • billthebrown

    The Tea Party is the Death to Americans and America Party and hey dumb asses

    Monuments get trashed and tagged when left unattended.
    You would be bitching the other way had they not been guarded.
    Irresponsible right wing anti american tea bagging stooges.

  • Peggy A. Kelley

    Our Republican Governor has decided that even though the feds said they would give back pay to those affected, he will not pass it on to Wyoming state workers. These workers are on a military base and their wages are reimbursed by the military. So again Wyoming will steal wages from working people.

  • turtlegirl

    Really? I’m a gov’t-dependent taker? I’ve been laid-off for two months and have no income, am relying solely on savings and not taken one red cent from our gov’t in welfare of any kind even though I’d easily qualify. People like you need to stop lumping the lazy “whiners” as you call them (which, as we all know exist but somehow become the poster boys of welfare even though they are a tiny percentage of it’s recipients) with the responsible but down on their luck, laid-off, truly disabled people that need temporary assistance until they can get back on their feet. It’s getting REALLY OLD! But you know who the real welfare queens are? The oil and gas companies that are subsidized with millions of dollars every year while at the same time posting record profits every quarter. The NIH that gets 12 million dollars every year to waste on useless and cruel animal experiments that do nothing to improve the lives of people, but they keep it up in order to receive the funding. I could go on, but I think these two examples alone demonstrate just who indeed are the true welfare queens of this country. So, STFU.

  • turtlegirl

    Maybe it’s because they really aren’t the same species we are…….one of the distinctly human traits that separate us from non-humans is a thing called “empathy”, although I’m beginning to suspect my dogs have more than they ever did.

  • turtlegirl

    This is the best comment I’ve seen in……I don’t remember that far back. Thank you for making me laugh in spite of the incredible ridiculousness of all this. Humor saved my sanity today, thanks to you :) Cheers!

  • turtlegirl

    Please don’t insult dogs. They are way better than some humans I know. 😉

  • Richard Hollenbeck

    Refusing to even talk with Republicans by His Majesty N0bama hasn’t a thing to do with closing down the Government does it folks? You people make my skin crawl. Your hero took 18 months to even acknowledge the Senate Minority Leader. It’s truly his way or the hi-way and you support that kind of Monarchy? Or is it a Dictatorship?

  • scat

    Listen to something other than Fox news. President Obama has been in talks with both houses for months. Your silly twisting of words doesn’t make you sound informed.

  • scat

    Calling our military, our park police, the people who keep things moving along, , tax-paying Americans,etc “whining, government dependent takers” is truly over the cliff. What world are you living in? Before hurling insults at Americans who are truly hurting as a result of Republican self-serving hi-jinks, you should actually get to know some, since you clearly, admittedly don’t.
    Maybe you could start with the people whose surgeries and other necessary medical care have been postponed as a result of the shutdown. Just tell ’em to stop whining.

  • scat


  • scat

    Most of us would help them pack and drive them to the airport/train depot. They can go anytime, they just can’t take any real estate with them.

  • scat

    They know, they don’t care. They immunize themselves against having any empathy for the “other” by making up dehumanizing names for them, by blaming all of our problems on them,by lying about them. They will probably cling to the lies they have told and come to beleive until they die and pass this irrational, primitive way of thinking onto their kids.

  • scat

    It’s really hard to fix stupid when it is coupled with bigotry, fear and desire for someone else to do it all for them.

  • scat

    LEt’s hope they don’t forget when it comes to election day.

  • tygre

    Thank you, I needed that. Friends said they lost it over tea bags up Uranus… Thanks. Cheers Turtlegirl!

  • turtlegirl

    I, too, sign multitudes of petitions everyday, and a lot of the same ones you mentioned. Yes, it does help your sanity to at least have some sense that your signature/actions count for something, that it matters, and that it does help improve things for others.That’s that “empathy” thing I was talking about earlier that certain factions of our populace seem to be lacking. Not sure how someone could lead a fulfilling life without it.

  • Anonymous

    Not to mention that abhorrable woman “Rep.” Renee Ellmers saying she needs her paycheck… but those babies on WIC, hey, too bad they didn’t have a surgeon making $270K contributing to THEIR households. Something that apparently all babies are expected to have.

  • turtlegirl

    Oops, I got a figure wrong here. It’s 12 BILLION dollars a year to the NIH for animal experimentation.

  • Susan

    scat – perhaps you should listen to something other than MSNBC and like minded media. That ‘listening to Fox news’ talking point is so over used. Until people realize that there are issues on both sides, nothing will get accomplished. Making up stories to fit your agenda, and name calling is just childish. I am neither Republican nor Democrat, but I have to say that it is the job of any president to bring the country together and to stop the divisive rhetoric.

  • scat

    Of course there are valid issues on both sides, but it is this small band of Repubicans that have vowed to destroy Obama and his administration. They made no secret of it, in fact proudly proclaimed their intent to do this no matter what it takes, including shutting down the government. And it has been Fox cheering them on. That is no secret either. If you actually listened to other news and current event broadcasters, you would find that they indeed consider the “other” side, and call it what it is — “crazy”. Even Republicans are calling the tea parties crazy and destructive. I don’t make up stories or resort to name-calling. The use of “crazy” here is what we are hearing rational Republicans call thier merry band of tea partiers.