Eric Shinseki’s long goodbye
With nearly every endangered Democrat panicking over the interim Inspector General report on the Department of Veterans Affairs, the calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign have become deafening. It’s sad and pathetic to watch his long goodbye play out in Washington as an entirely political soap opera that has little to do with the outrageous treatment of veterans on his watch. This is pure election-year politics, clashing with Barack Obama’s conviction that he can outlast any scandal as long as he admits no error and fires no one.
The idea that it took that interim IG report (“interim” is a Latin word that means “before the election”) to trigger a Democrat stampede is outrageous, and should bring military vets, and those who love and respect them, to the polls in droves to vote Democrats out of office in November. Contrary to Obama’s pitiful spin attempts, there is no question that these awful deeds took place at VA clinics. Reports about those doctored wait lists have been in the hands of top officials since last year. Endangered Democrats in purple and red states only started yelling for Shinseki’s scalp when they performed a political calculation and realized the public was now fully engaged and furious.
The Democrats are the party of bureaucratic inertia and bloat; the part of politics over all; the party of government by, of, and for the government. They are the creators and defenders of the zero-accountability culture that produced the VA nightmare, and whose echoes can be seen everywhere from the Department of Health and Human Services to the politicized Justice Department and IRS. Nothing’s going to change at the VA, or anywhere else in this corrupt government, as long as the Democrat Party holds power. They’re proving it to you, right now, by the way they’re handling Shinseki… and if you need more proof, just wait until he leaves, and all those Democrats begin screaming in unison that the scandal is over, his scalp is good enough, let’s not dwell on the past, anyone who thinks more dramatic action is necessary is just politicizing the issue, how dare you ask about Barack Obama’s role in all this…
Michael Gerson at the Washington Post thinks the VA scandal is “sticking” because it represents “the Obama Administration in sum and miniature: incompetent management of a health system, defended by crude media manipulation.” He cites as evidence of the latter Obama’s astonishing attempt to pawn of the scheduled retirement of a VA official as though it were the sacking someone held responsible for the scandal, and White House spokesman Jay Carney’s even more astonishing willingness to repeatedly misrepresent the American Legion’s opinion on how the VA situation was being handled.
But Team Obama doesn’t just ineptly manage health care; they’re incompetent at everything, they politicize everything, and when they get caught, they use the same tactics to manipulate an extremely supportive media and evade responsibility. That little scam Obama pulled when he pretended to sack a VA official who was already retiring – in fact, Obama had already announced his replacement! – is exactly the same tactic he used in the early days of the IRS scandal. The same story plays out with this President and his Party, over and over again.
“The VA health system is unapologetically socialized medicine, in a way that Obamacare (for all its faults) is not,” Gerson argues. “But for the administration, the scandal is an inconvenient public reminder that the centralization of government power in health care has inherent dangers.” It’s worse than that, because ObamaCare was always secretly intended to fail and drive America into a single-payer socialized horror, and it’s not really a secret anymore; beginning a few weeks after the October launch disaster, Democrats began openly talking about how single-payer was the only way to “solve” the problems with the ObamaCare disaster they foisted on us. If you want to stop our slide into an endless tragedy where all of us are stuck with a system as corrupt and inefficient as the VA, you need to burn Democrats out of office in 2014 and 2016, in historic numbers. A vote against the Democrats in your district is the only way you can head off that fate. (Alas, a couple of electoral tidal waves are also the only way American voters can stiffen the spines of Republicans enough to get something done.)
Meanwhile, we’re sitting through the absurd spectacle of Democrats jumping on the Eric Shinseki Must Go bandwagon, one at a time, as they get a look at terrifying internal polls and read stomach-churning news reports. The media is running breathless reports of Obama’s current mood, the same way old-time soap operas would conclude with breathless voice-overs asking if Brent had finally gone so far that Lucinda couldn’t love him any more. Current update on King Barack’s mood: “One administration official told NBC News Thursday that Secretary Shinseki is “on thin ice” in the wake of the latest reports of VA hospital mismanagement.” How many dead veterans will it take before the ice cracks under Shinseki, and Obama does what he should have done days ago?
And we get soapy updates on the latest Democrat to declare him or herself “troubled” by the interim VA report, and call for Shinseki’s ouster. It’s up to “nearly a dozen Democratic senators” according to Fox News:
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., among the latest Democrats to break ranks with the administration, said the controversy over the secretary has drawn attention away from the “real issue” of the need to reform the VA.
“Gen. Shinseki has served our country with distinction,” Warner said in a statement. “I now believe he should step aside in order to allow our focus and our efforts to be on making the critically needed changes to fix the VA.”
Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., on Thursday also called on Obama to appoint a new secretary, saying veterans “deserve nothing less than the very best service our nation has to offer.”
More broadly, lawmakers want the president to get more deeply engaged in cleaning up the VA.
The administration is still awaiting a final IG report as well as the results of a separate internal review. Shinseki released a statement on Wednesday calling the latest findings “reprehensible,” but did not offer his resignation.
Yes, after five years of inaction, and two years of refusing to meet with his VA Secretary, Obama will finally get “deeply engaged in cleaning up the VA”… once he sees a few more reports, of course. Just to show they’re extra super-duper “troubled” by his failures, Democrats should insist that Shinseki leave Washington in one of those dorky Google self-driving cars, puttering past the Beltway into the bitter darkness of flyover country at 20 miles per hour.
Of course, not all Democrats think Shinseki should resign. Check out this inspiring profile in leadership from Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who apparently thinks there are still questions about just how widespread the problems at the VA might be, courtesy of the Associated Press:
“In terms of Shinseki’s resignation, my view on that is not yet,” Pryor told reporters after a round-table discussion on student loans. “I’m not going to call for that yet.”
Pryor called the treatment delays “inexcusable” but said he wants more details about what Shinseki knew and how widespread the problems are within the VA system. Pryor said he also wants to know whether similar problems exist at veterans’ facilities in Arkansas.
“I want to see how widespread this is, I want to see what else is going on there, I want to get inside the numbers a little bit, not just the big top-line number,” Pryor said. “This is a very serious problem for the veterans administration, and I think over time we’re going to have to see a lot of changes there. That may include changing the secretary and obviously it’s going to include changing a lot of people in Phoenix.”
Pryor’s Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, has called for Shinseki to step down and has accused Pryor of being silent on the issue. Pryor’s campaign has accused Cotton of trying to exploit the treatment delays for political gain. Cotton’s campaign had criticized Pryor earlier Thursday for not calling for Shinseki’s resignation.
“It’s also past time for Senator Pryor to join Tom Cotton and members of Congress from both parties in calling on Secretary Shinseki to resign,” Cotton campaign manager Justin Brasell said in a statement.
Give Senator Pryor a few more years to collate data, and he might just be ready to tentatively venture an opinion that maybe the man who fell asleep at the switch while clinics across the country were falsifying treatment data should think about packing it in.
Meanwhile, the second highest-ranking Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer, is worried about how unionized federal employees might be inconvenienced by turbulence at the VA. No, seriously, he really said that. From the Washington Examiner:
Hoyer said that while any wrong-doers within the VA must be held accountable, it’s imperative that accused employees be given due process and that innocent federal workers aren’t needlessly punished as a knee-jerk reaction.
“I don’t think that serving veterans is antithetical to making sure that employees of the federal government have the civil service protections that were adopted as long ago as the Pendleton [Civil Service Reform] Act in the 19th Century,” said Hoyer, whose district includes a large number of federal workers.
“Our civil service system is designed not to be a system where people serve at the will of those who win elections. It’s a professional civil service [that is] protected.”
Like I said: the VA scandal is a Democrat Party scandal. It’s ludicrous to keep Shinseki at his post, not because he’s a bad guy who should be made to suffer, but because there is no reason to believe the Secretary who allowed all this to occur is the right leader to implement reforms. Also, only by holding the top people accountable can such bureaucratic nightmares be avoided. Why should any Big Government grandee work up a sweat managing his department, when he knows he’s got a pretty good chance of surviving any scandal that might occur… maybe even with increased funding, which is the Democrats’ solution to everything, including the VA outrage? Shinseki doesn’t have to be tarred and feathered, but it’s been painfully obvious from Day One that he has to go, so that his successor – and every other high government official – knows his career is directly tied to timely and effective performance of his duties. It should be necessary to explain this to any adult American, let alone an entire political Party.
Let’s finish up with a little bonus outrage, as Democrat campaign consultant Bill Burton explains to CNN’s Jake Tapper that replacing Shinseki would be too much work for poor President Obama, because the Republicans would make confirmation hearings for his replacement tough. Burton’s not an elected official… but do you find it unlikely that many inside the Obama White House, and across the Democrat Party, think like he does?
Update: Secretary Shinseki took another stab at apologizing for the scandal on Friday, as reported by The Hill:
“I apologize as the senior leader of Veterans Affairs,” he said at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans 2014 conference Friday morning. “That breach of integrity is irresponsible, it is indefensible and unacceptable to me.”
“I also offer that apology to members of Congress who have supported me, to veteran service organizations who have been my partners for five years, and to the American people. All of them, all of them deserve better from the VA.”
Shinseki is set to meet with President Obama at the White House this morning to give him “an update” on the situation at the VA, according to the White House.
The meeting comes amid widespread speculation that Shinseki could be fired by the president.
Shinseki accepted some blame on Friday for the problems, saying he had been too trusting of subordinates.
“I was too trusting of some, and I accepted as accurate reports that I now know to be misleading with regard to patient wait times,” he said.
“I can’t explain the lack of integrity amongst some of the leaders of our health care facilities. This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform.
“And so I will not defend it, because it is indefensible. I can take responsibility for it, and I do,” he said.
“So given the facts I now know, I apologize as the senior leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs. I extend that apology to the people I care most deeply about, and that’s veterans of this great country, to their families and loved ones who I have been honored to serve for over five years now — it’s the call of a lifetime.”
That’s not an apology, it’s a letter of resignation… but he still hasn’t resigned. This is far from the first time an Obama Administration official has offered a “defense” that any previous generation would have expected to hear during an exit interview.
Update: After Obama dragged the nation through this political farce for weeks, Eric Shinseki finally offered his resignation late Friday morning.
Update: President Obama’s statement on Shinseki’s resignation was… rather amazing. I might go into it at greater length in another post today, but in brief, he just kept talking, and talking, and talking… until he went completely off the rails, characterizing the VA scandal as some sort of computer glitch caused by outmoded equipment, rather than the deliberate deletion of records by corrupt officials. He mourned Shinseki’s departure until it became clear to even the most dedicated Obama sycophant that the VA Secretary is only leaving because Obama’s party had a heart attack over the media coverage; not a drop of presumed presidential “leadership” remained hanging in the air when the President was done. And of course, Obama thinks the only real problem with the VA is that it needs more money. It was more like a psychotic break than a press conference, and my guess is that it’s going to absolutely enrage veterans, their families, and every American who cares about them.