Democrats try to run out the clock on the VA scandal
It’s comically obvious that the Democrats (and their good buddy, “independent” socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont) are fully committed to the Obama Scandal Damage Control playbook over the VA outrage. They’re going to try to drag this thing out for months, and hope the public loses interest. The delaying tactics are painfully obvious. In one voice, everyone from President Obama and Secretary for Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, to Administration flacks and congressional Democrats, is saying: slow down, wait for more reports, forget about this story, stop asking what Obama’s been doing for the last five years.
The endgame is easy to see: crucial news cycles will roll by with friendly media having nothing fresh to report – because we’ve got to wait for more studies and reports before jumping to any conclusions, don’t you know! – and the tides of the 24-hour news grind will wash the whole thing away. It’s Fast and Furious, Benghazi, ObamaCare, and the IRS scandal all over again, except it’s even more transparent this time.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives acted swiftly to pass the VA Management Accountability Act this week, with a lopsided vote of 390-33. The bill would have swept aside bureaucratic obstacles and given the VA Secretary the ability to clean house by swiftly terminating those who orchestrated the appalling treatment of veterans, and the ensuing cover-up. In other words, Obama and Shinseki would have to put their money where their mouths are. And we can’t have that, so the urgency of the House was quickly dissipated in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The Heritage Foundation hears the loud snores emerging from the meadows where Harry Reid’s caucus slumbers:
Passage of the bill marks “the first step on the road to accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Pete Hegseth, chief executive of Concerned Veterans for America, said on the organization’s website.
Hours earlier, Hegseth’s group had castigated President Obama for not demanding accountability from Shinseki in the growing scandal over substandard veterans health care.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has not pushed for quick action on a similar Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
“For everyone talking about how quickly we need to act on this — here is your chance,” Rubio urged today in a floor speech.
But although Reid called the House bill “not unreasonable,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., blocked Rubio’s request for immediate action. Instead, Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, said he would hold a hearing within a few weeks.
Veterans are dying and the Obama Administration was caught in a vast nationwide cover-up to hide it, but Harry Reid and Bernie Sanders feel no rush to get the bottom of things. They’ll hold some hearings in a few weeks, by which time Obamabots will be calling the whole story “old news” and/or a “phony scandal.”
This follows President Obama’s first public statement on the scandal after weeks of mounting outrage, in which he said he wants to wait for more reports to be filed on the “allegations” absolutely no one doubts are 100 percent true. Then he dashed off to some more fundraisers and some poll-goosing sports events. The only surprise is that he didn’t provide the White House press pool with a pamphlet listing ten other stories he thinks they should be covering instead of the VA scandal, the way he ordered them to stop covering the ObamaCare disaster (and they eagerly complied!)
Sure, there are a couple of badly endangered Democrat candidates in 2014 calling for Secretary Shinseki to resign, but that’s mostly meaningless kabuki theater designed to hoodwink voters, not a serious rebellion within the party. (Not yet, anyway. If the Obama delaying tactic doesn’t diffuse public anger, a real schism may form between Democrats slavishly loyal to the Administration, and those who really are disturbed by what they see happening here.) Also, a bit of strategically controlled hubbub from red-state Democrats about wanting Shinseki’s scalp can build up the value of that scalp as a way to release pressure from the scandal, as a last-ditch measure, if Obama concludes his standard delaying tactics aren’t killing the story.
Shinseki does need to go – it’s laughable to leave the man in charge of the VA for the entire Obama era at the helm – but that’s only the beginning of both accountability and serious reform. Rep. Jeff Miller of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs had the right idea, in a Fox News interview on Thursday:
The chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs said Thursday on “The Kelly File” the agency is suffering from “a systemic problem that is a life and death issue” and can’t be solved simply by removing the cabinet secretary in charge.
“This has been going on for years, and of course, the Obama administration wants to say this goes all the way back to the Bush administration, and that may be true,” Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., told Megyn Kelly. “But (Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki) has been in office now for well over five years and has had an opportunity to make a difference and he hasn’t done it, and the agency has continued to grow.”
Miller said he believes President Obama should have taken a more proactive stance when news of the scandal first broke last month with the disclosure that key data allegedly was concealed at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs center while dozens of veterans died waiting for care. Since then, allegations of neglect and misconduct have been made at VA facilities across the country.
“This is a systemic problem that is a life and death issue, and the president should have come out and immediately said, ‘I will allow any veteran who is on a waiting list to receive the medical care that they have earned to go outside of the VA network and get it on the private market,’” Miller said.
Of course, Obama’s not going to do any such thing, because it would be a death blow to his ideal of socialized medicine. He’s not going to admit that veterans need to flee from a single-payer medical system to escape brutal and corrupt rationing and get the care they need. Unless he’s really backed up against the wall, Obama’s not going to do anything that reminds Americans of the uncomfortable similarities between these secret VA waiting lists and the ObamaCare death panels awaiting them. His “signature achievement” is in bad enough shape as it is; ObamaCare will not survive any further ideological body blows. It’s also not helpful to the ObamaCare cause for the VA story to settle into the public mind as an example of Big Government ineptitude and dishonesty.
Democrats are using the time purchased with these delaying tactics to work on their blame-shifting narratives, betting quite a few of their chips on a plan to reframe the whole thing as George Bush’s fault, because Iraq. No one outside the hardcore Democrat base is stupid enough to fall for that. The VA system received enormous increases in funding throughout the Obama years – more than any other Cabinet agency. And it’s not as if the return of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan (aka the “good war” Democrats used to swear up and down they wholeheartedly supported, and damn George Bush from distracting the nation’s attention from it by going into Iraq!) was some unforeseeable event that took the Obama Administration by surprise.
Actually, the Democrats’ feeble “blame Bush” narrative is a staggering indictment of Obama, who somehow managed to get blindsided by the most predictable increase in demand any system has ever encountered. Once again, the story comes back to administrative incompetence, to say nothing of the lies and cover-ups, which were designed to cook the books and play the our allegedly super-intelligent Leviathan State overlords for chumps. And it worked, for years.
So for Team Obama, it’s steady as she goes, all sails hanging slack as the VA story wallows in flat seas of delay and obfuscation, with the clock ticking until the overheated news media moves along to another story. Meanwhile, the hits just keep coming, as long-intimidated whistleblowers step forward with horrifying stories of abuse, about far more than those secret waiting lists. There is a certain feel of dams breaking. Here’s another one, courtesy of Fox News, in which VA police officer Thomas Fiore claims “administrators at the hospital in Miami where he works are covering up crimes at the facility, including evidence of physical abuse of patients and drug dealing”:
“I actually prepared a written plan, if you will, pertaining to an undercover operation so that we can at least identify who our targets are for the drug sales,” he said. “And I presented that in an email and I’m still waiting on a response. I submitted it about two years ago.”
Fiore earlier told the Miami Herald that the breaking point for him was a March 2013 report on the facility’s residential drug rehab program, which charged the program failed to adequately monitor patients or stop illicit drug use.
The report highlighted Nicholas Todd Cutter, a 27-year-old Iraq war veteran who overdosed on drugs shortly before he was set to graduate the program. Fiore told the Herald Cutter’s death “could have been prevented.”
“There are just so many things that have occurred that are just an absolute disgrace,” he said.
Fiore told the newspaper that when he tried to report drug dealing among patients, patient abuse or missing drugs from the pharmacy he was either ignored or his attempts to investigate the incidents were thwarted.
“I was told that the police reports were to stop,’’ he said, “and they would notify me if something important came up.’’
Fiore told the Herald he was eventually reassigned to a clerical position.
“I was reassigned because I continued to bring things up to the director, and he continued to ignore it,’’ he said. “They just needed to get rid of me.”
26 hospitals are under investigation now. This is a massive systemic crisis, not the work of a few low-level rogue employees. And the people in charge of the system are trying to evade accountability by boasting of everything the VA has done right – as if the core accusation here is that Barack Obama and Eric Shinseki don’t personally care enough about veterans, so all they’ve got to do is talk up a few accomplishments to demonstrate their compassion, while the sand of outrage runs out of the public’s hourglass. It is infuriating to note how Obama discarded all his campaign promises and forgot about the VA system once he got into office, a record of neglect that cannot be erased by giving a few speeches today. But ultimately this is a matter of the mind, not the heart – of outcomes, not intentions. What matters is what happened, not how high officials feel about what happened.