"They're Still Standing"
By Eran Lillestrand (not verified)
February 4, 2008 - 8:38pm ET
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A willful inability to govern well is a hallmark of modern conservatism. Usually, we think of this failure as a result of conservatives being unable or unwilling to perform functions of government they don't believe in--regulation, food safety, et cetera. But if you have a culture where competence isn't valued there's no way to contain it. Once you're in the habit of retaliating against all criticisms and ignoring the actual performance of your agencies, it's easy to do the same thing for government functions you do care about (even conservatives admit the need for policing).
Consider the case of the United States Park Police, the men and women tasked with protecting the National Mall, Statue of Liberty and many parks and roads in the D.C. area. In 2001 the Bush administration chose Teresa Chambers as its head. In 2003 Chambers gave an interview to The Washington Post in which she pointed out that the Republican-controlled congress had given her insufficient funds and that, as a result, officers were working 12 hour shifts, traffic accidents were up in areas where patrols had been cut back, and that she didn't have the resources to prevent homeless people from taking up residence in some parks. The administration's response? It fired her.
Fast forward to 2008 and, what do you know, things haven gotten worse and, as a result, many of our nation's most important landmarks are essentially unsafe. Private contractors have been brought in, but they seem basically incompetent and the force that remains is deeply dysfunctional:
The U.S. Park Police have failed to adequately protect such national landmarks as the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument and are plagued by low morale, poor leadership and bad organization, according to a new government report.
The force is understaffed, insufficiently trained and woefully equipped, the report by the Interior Department's inspector general concludes. Hallowed sites on the Mall are weakly guarded and vulnerable to terrorist attack, the inspector general's office found.
And guess what, the guy they hired to replace Chambers isn't doing too good a job:
Park Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford, although not identified by name, is singled out for criticism, and one of the report's 20 recommendations is that the National Park Service examine whether he is "equipped to effectively advance the mission and operations of the agency."...
Asked about the accusation that the monuments were not adequately protected, the police chief declared: "They're still standing."
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