- - Sunday, June 20, 2021

One of the most alarming elements of the Biden administration so far is its blatant and unapologetic willingness to use its enforcement powers in arbitrary ways to hurt its political appointments. 

Protesters in Portland barricade police in buildings then set them ablaze but are not even charged with crimes before they are released; meanwhile, Jan. 6 protesters languish under harsh conditions for five months now in solitary confinement while they await trials on what are at most minor felonies.  

A pipeline between Germany and Russia, which enables Russia to gain hard currency and significant geopolitical influence by selling energy in Europe, is approved just days ahead of a meeting between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. But Keystone Pipeline, which generates American jobs and affordable energy for Americans, is rejected to appease leftist green groups.  

Now, South Dakota wants to hold a Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore, and the Biden administration is refusing to allow it. The official excuse is that it is too dangerous – too much risk of fire or exposure to covid – and that tribes oppose it because two of the presidents etched into the rock were slave owners. 

President Biden has actively encouraged state and local governments to hold lavish Fourth of July celebrations this year to mark the country’s independence from the pandemic, so the argument about COVID-19 spread is disingenuous to say the least.  

The National Park Service looked into whether the fire hazard argument held water last year, found it did not and approved the first Fourth of July celebration there in more than a decade.  

Former President Trump spoke before about 8,000 people who were not required to wear masks. Not only were there no fires, there was no uptick in COVID-19 cases in South Dakota over the next two weeks, indicating it was not the super spreader event detractors had predicted.  

As for the tribes, the park has been there 80 years – since when have they been given veto power over programming there? 

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, said she had addressed all the environmental concerns raised by the National Park Service, all the fire precautions, checklists and consultations. “The fact that they’re not letting South Dakota have our fireworks at Mount Rushmore is just political,” Noem said on Fox News Tuesday night.  

After a judge told her earlier this month that he wouldn’t overturn the Department of Interior’s decision to deny the state a permit to hold the fireworks show, she vowed to resubmit the application in hopes the government will reverse the decision in time to put on the show. On top of that, she said she would write to President Biden directly. 

Gov. Noem has pointed out in tweets and elsewhere that Biden will get to have a Fourth of July celebration in his front yard. The Bidens are playing host to about 1,000 guests for a barbecue on the White House lawn – most of them first responders who are being thanked for their efforts during the pandemic. 

So what is the real reason? Is the Biden administration denying South Dakota the use of Mount Rushmore for its Fourth of July celebration out of political pique at a successful Republican governor who happens to be on a lot of short-lists for the 2024 presidential nomination?  

Is it because this particular governor defied the CDC, truly trusted the science and kept her state open throughout the pandemic, enabling it to emerge as one of the hottest states economically in the country? 

Is the Democratic Party so resentful of Mr. Trump that it would deny innocent South Dakotans a Fourth of July celebration it is actively encouraging everywhere else just because he spoke there last year? 

Do the tribes hold that much sway? Will they get a right of veto over all park programming? From the remarks of some of their members – “Mount Rushmore is a symbol of white supremacy, of structural racism that’s still alive and well in society today,” and that it’s ”an injustice to actively steal indigenous people’s land, then carve the white faces of the colonizers who committed genocide,” said one – it seems as if it will take more than canceling a fireworks show to satisfy them. 

Whatever it is, the Biden administration needs to either approve South Dakota’s fireworks show or actually explain why it won’t. it’s not because of covid, or the president wouldn’t be encouraging every other locality in America to hold a celebration. It’s not fire safety – South Dakota has proven it has that under control. 

Absent that, we have to assume it’s politics, the arbitrary abuse of power for which this administration is becoming known. No other explanation makes much sense.   

• Brian McNicoll, a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va., is a former senior writer for The Heritage Foundation and former director of communications for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

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