John Tsitrian noticed that Congressman Dusty Johnson is making some trivial noise about Mount Rushmore again. Last Tuesday, Johnson introduced H.R. 8721, a measure aimed at preserving the name of Mount Rushmore, and H.R. 8734, a measure to protect Mount Rushmore from any changes. Congressman Johnson appears to be recycling two Twitter-fodder bills he introduced in summer 2020:
Those bills went nowhere in the 116th Congress; Dusty’s retreads will go no further in the 117th. But his retreads are more bothersome now: residents of the Black Hills are threatening to commit armed violence against our country, and Congressman Johnson only feeds that insurrectionist rage by legislatively tilting at the flimsy windmill of Rushmore renamers.
If I were madly hopeful, I’d argue that this pitch for Fox airtime is really our man Dusty’s subtle way of standing up to the Trumpist pitchforkers. Remember that, back in June, Governor Kristi Noem sprinkled a little cold water on Trump’s geologically impossible dream of carving his face onto Mount Rushmore when shesaid the monument “is pretty special just the way it is.” Maybe Johnson’s H.R. 8374 is intended to reinforce Noem’s rock-revision resistance, preventing any effort to use federal money to carve any new likeness into the mountain. As backup, Johnson’s H.R. 8721 would prevent any effort to rename the mountain for Trump. That madly hopeful interpretation is far more plausible than the Alex Jones/QAnon fantasies Trumpists have swallowed. Dusty had better watch out for MAGA maniacs who sniff out his effort to prevent their honoring the worst President ever on Mount Rushmore!
I wouldn’t mind a legal guarantee that Trump’s name will never grace any historical landmark, but I feel compelled to note that Johnson’s H.R. 8374 has one practical problem: in prohibiting the use of federal funds to “alter, change, destroy, or remove… any… feature on the Mount Rushmore National Memorial,” Johnson may inadvertently prevent the repair, replacement, or upgrading of the water bubblers, toilets, shops, diner, trails, ranger sheds, or other facilities around the Four Great Faces. The Memorial encompasses 1,278 acres, two square miles. We couldn’t use any federal road dollars to repave or restripe Highway 244 around the Memorial. The U.S. Forest Service couldn’t clear brush or remove trees. Congressman Johnson’s bills might serve to prevent the enshrinement of the Great Greedy Grimace in granite, but it would also monkey-wrench the normal maintenance of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
But careful wording to avoid such practical complications evidently doesn’t matter much when Congress critters file bills with no chance of passing just to stake out some culture-war ground.