Jim and Edwina Bass traveled all the way from England this week to see what the Colonists have done with the place, and to pay their respects to General Washington.
They arrived Tuesday at the Washington’s Headquarters Museum in Morristown just in time to get locked out by another Washington, the Beltway version.
The Basses can forgive the U.S.A. for that Revolutionary War business. But barring Edwina, a retired history teacher, from a museum?
“We hold a grudge against the stupid people in government,” said Jim, who serves on his county council back in Northamptonshire.
“For the House of Representatives to put their principles higher than the people who serve the country is ridiculous, on both sides.”
Museum employees, who are part of the Morristown National Historical Park, were among the 800,000 federal workers furloughed on Tuesday after Congress failed to agree on a spending bill to keep the government running.
MORRISTOWN SENIORS OKAY FOR NOW
Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty said municipal operations won’t be affected. Initially, he was concerned about the fate of several hundred seniors living in federally subsidized apartments at Ann Street, Early Street and Manahan Village. But he said an interim housing director assured him that services would not be disrupted.
Morris County services also were operating normally and should continue doing so, said Joe Garifo, a spokesman for the Morris Freeholders.
As the Basses commiserated with their ex-pat guide, Steve Sharp of Morristown, Park Rangers barricaded parking lots at the museum and the adjoining Ford Mansion–where George Washington bunked during the nation’s first official crisis, the aforementioned dust-up with King George.
“It’s the same old thing,” said Steve, who employs seven people in a roof consulting business. “We’ve lost sight of what really makes the wheels go round. It’s not government. We lose sight of the bottom end.”
Congressional Republicans should push aside the contentious Obamacare issue, pass a budget with the Democrats, and then “go back to it. They’re both to blame,” Edwina said.
Jim Bass suggested the crisis would end quickly if members of Congress had to forego their salaries during the shutdown.
Senators and Representatives get paid their $174,000 salaries no matter what; laws meant to preclude pre-election raises prevent these elected officials from tinkering with their salaries until the start of a new term, reports the Washington Post.
‘EVERYTHING IS ON THE TABLE’
Some politicians have volunteered to donate their paychecks to charity for the duration of the furloughs. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) said he has asked Congress to suspend his pay.
The Congressman, whose district includes Morristown, said he has been named to a committee of House Republicans who stand ready to conference with Senate Democrats. “Everything is on the table,” he said.
“The country is not well served by this shutdown,” said Rep. Frelinghuysen, who remembers the public outcry from the 1995 shutdown when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton went toe-to-toe.
Obamacare is “not ready for prime time,” and President Obama should do more talking and “less campaign posturing,” the Congressman said.
But that also goes for extreme voices within the Republican party, who need to compromise for the good of Congress, and for the good of citizens “who deserve better,” he said.
“There is a group on the Republican side that feels shutting down the government is a good idea. It repels me to do that,” the Congressman said.
‘IT’S JUST STUPIDITY’
George Nerrie, a retired banker and Navy captain from Los Angeles, was among the visitors shut out of the Ford Mansion on Tuesday.
“It’s just stupidity!” George said of the shutdown. In his view, Democrats are the villains. If everyone in government took a 10 percent pay cut, “just like we do in the private sector, then they will find the money” to keep things running, he said.
George was touring New Jersey Revolutionary War sites. “The guy who lived in that house”– he gestured toward Washington’s Headquarters in the empty Ford Mansion–“and his aides-de-camp were good, smart fellows. They though a lot about their children, and I like that.”
Norman and Patti Lefebvre of Peyton, Colo., also left disappointed. Their travels already had taken them to historic sites of Presidents Eisenhower, Truman and Lincoln; Martin Van Buren and FDR were scheduled next, after the Washington’s Headquarters Museum.
Earlier, they also were turned away from the appropriately named Fort Nonsense, another Park Service property.
“I think their needs to be a little more negotiation. We need more leadership on all sides, and we’re not getting it,” said Norman, a retired Army chopper pilot. His wife put it more bluntly.
“I think it stinks! I think he stinks!” Patti said, referring to the President. “I think he’s naive, selfish, he’s got an agenda. We’ll find out about it one of these days.”
Before leaving the museum grounds, the Lefebvres got a sympathetic Park Ranger to stamp their Park Service “passport,” attesting to their visit. Norman wondered if the stamped date was prophetic.
“It says Nov. 1,” he said.