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The National Park Service this morning formally announced its intent to proceed with the modification of the Mt. Rushmore monument in Keystone, South Dakota to incorporate the bust of President Barack Obama.  The modification to the monument is scheduled to begin in late 2015, with a target date of September, 2018 for completion.  The official announcement will be made tomorrow morning at the NPS' Washington DC offices.

The project will involve several hundred miners and engineers and will utilize state of the art machinery and environmentally-friendly(?) solvents to re-create Obama's bust in the area adjacent to the George Washington visage. The three-year completion time is admittedly optimistic given the fact that the original monument took a total of fourteen years to construct.  Unlike the original effort, however, which relied on workers affixed to the top of the monument via rope harnesses, hydraulic lifts are expected to be placed with telescoping platforms, employing much of the same engineering technology currently in use to reconstruct the World Trade Center.  The monument will remain open during the new construction period.

For those who question the Electoral timing of this, you may not be aware it has been in the works since 2010, and has less to do with the Obama Administration (which initially was lukewarm to the proposal) and more to do with the preferences of several multi-national corporations that expect to profit from the increased tourism the modification is supposed to attract. Several renderings for the monument have been submitted thus far and there has been no final decision as to the portraiture that will ultimately be used.   This is one of several tentative renderings, vetted by sculptor Irving Gneus who is overseeing the project for the Park Service:

     obama on mt rushmore photo: Dartagnan's Mt Rushmore Obama pic Dartagnanmtrushmorepic_zps4693acd6.jpg

"The intent was to have Obama facing the same direction as Lincoln, given the milestones in race relations that their Presidencies represent," said Gneus.
In assessing the practicality of each design in light of its feasibility and durability in a granite medium, Gneus also considered  but rejected (due to copyright concerns) Shepard Fairey's emblematic "Hope" poster.  

                                     obama hope poster photo: Audacity of Hope 20080417_dn_barackhope.jpg

Gneus was interviewed by the New York Times' Phil N. Stone for this week's Sunday Magazine:

"We wanted to avoid overtly politicizing the modification of a historical monument that receives approximately three million independent visitors per year," he said.  "The Hope poster, while admittedly iconic, is invariably associated with the Obama campaign. This is an American monument, not a Democratic or Republican monument."
As this is literally a breaking story, there is little Republican reaction to assess. When the subject was breached in 2011 on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said:
"If this becomes a reality I will personally strap a load of C5 to my stomach and lower myself down onto the Obama sculpture's nose."
The cost to the taxpayers of modifying the original monument, created by the Danish-born Gutzon Borglum, is expected to be largely offset by corporate donors, currently under contract to supply, among other things, the scaffolding required for the three year undertaking. The scaffolding in and of itself employs state-of-the art holographic imaging interpreted from "to-scale" simulations:

      scaffolding rushmore photo:  IMG_4120.jpg

The original sculptures were begun in 1927 and completed in 1941. Interestingly, few Americans are aware that the sculptor originally intended "head to waist" depictions but was compelled by environmental and economic factors to settle on simply "busts" of each President's head.

After securing federal funding, construction on the memorial began in 1927, and the presidents' faces were completed between 1934 and 1939. Upon Gutzon Borglum's death in March 1941, his son Lincoln Borglum took over construction. Although the initial concept called for each president to be depicted from head to waist, lack of funding forced construction to end in late October 1941.

The U.S. National Park Service took control of the memorial in 1933, while it was still under construction, and has managed the memorial to the present day

The monument, situated in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is not without controversy:
Mount Rushmore is controversial among Native Americans because the United States seized the area from the Lakota tribe after the Great Sioux War of 1876. The Treaty of Fort Laramie from 1868 had previously granted the Black Hills to the Lakota in perpetuity. Members of the American Indian Movement led an occupation of the monument in 1971, naming it "Mount Crazy Horse". Among the participants were young activists, grandparents, children and Lakota holy man John Fire Lame Deer, who planted a prayer staff atop the mountain. Lame Deer said the staff formed a symbolic shroud over the presidents' faces "which shall remain dirty until the treaties concerning the Black Hills are fulfilled."[23]  
The monument has also come under criticism for its implicit endorsement of "Manifest Destiny," the doctrine prevalent in the 19th Century that held it was Americans' "destiny" to sweep across and subjugate the continent.   Many have credibly called this doctrine into question as a contrived justification for the attempted genocide of the Native American population.

National Parks spokesman Michael Angelo stated he believed the inclusion of Obama on the statue would represent a symbolic healing of racial tensions:

"Naturally we expect some pushback from certain political quarters, however we believe that over time even staunch critics of the President will begin to adopt amore historical perspective as to the nature of his service."
UPDATE: Some reactions are now coming in from Republicans:

Mitt Romney:  

stated that he won't be visiting the monument as he owns no homes in South Dakota and doesn't care for the people there.  "Flyover territory for me."
Sarah Palin:
"Thomas Jefferson should be added to the monument, not Obama. After all, he wrote the friggin' Constitution, didn't he?"
John McCain:
refused to respond to reporters' questions.
Witnesses outside of Fox News' headquarters on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan this morning reported hearing several muffled "explosions" or "pops" apparently emanating from behind the walls of the Fox studios.  Ambulances were dispatched to reports of oddly duplicative, catastrophic head injuries.  This story continues to develop...

Originally posted to Dartagnan on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 06:07 AM PST.

Also republished by J Town.

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