- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2016

President Obama gave a not-so-subtle plug for Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy Tuesday as he designated a new national monument in Washington to honor the movement for women’s equality.

Speaking at the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument on Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama said he wants children who visit the historic house decades from now to be “astonished” that women had to fight for equality.

“I want them to come here and be astonished that there was ever a time when women could not vote,” Mr. Obama said. “I want them to be astonished that there was ever a time when women earned less than men for doing the same work. I want them to be astonished … that there was ever a time when a woman had never sat in the Oval Office.”

The president added, “I don’t know how long it will take to get there, but I know we’re getting closer to that day.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president was making a “value statement” rather than a sly endorsement of Mrs. Clinton, his former secretary of state who is waging a campaign against Sen. Bernard Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“When women are competing for the highest elected office in the land … they should be evaluated based on their ideas and their values and their agenda,” Mr. Earnest said. “That’s the kind of country I think that we all aspire to.”

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Mr. Obama designated the facility, also known as the Sewall-Belmont House, for preservation and management by the National Park Service. It is the site where members of the Women’s Party helped author more than 600 pieces of federal, state and local legislation in support of equal rights.

The new monument is named for former party president, activist and suffragist Alva Belmont, who was a major benefactor of the National Woman’s Party, and Alice Paul, who founded the party and played a leading role in the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote in 1920. Paul died in New Jersey in 1977 at age 92.

Mr. Obama was accompanied in the presidential limousine to the event by tennis legend Billie Jean King, whom he praised as “a heroine of mine when I was still young and fancied myself a tennis player.”

The president used the occasion to urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would bar employers from retaliating against employees for discussing their salaries openly.

“I’m not here just to say we should close the wage gap, we will close the wage gap,” Mr. Obama said.

The president has been criticized throughout his presidency for paying female White House staffers less overall than male staffers. White House advisers say the comparisons are inaccurate and that staffers with comparable job titles are paid the same, regardless of sex.

Mr. Obama has designated more than 265 million acres of land and water as national monuments for preservation, more than any president in history. The Antiquities Act of 1906 allows the president to establish national monuments from existing federal lands. The law has been used by 16 presidents, eight Republicans and eight Democrats, to declare more than 140 national monuments.

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