Never mind the utterly bloodless, who-gives-a-damn attitude Barack Obama has projected about the VA scandal thus far, citizens! Rest assured that in private, behind closed doors, he’s “madder than hell” – maybe madder than anyone has ever been about anything. As usual for an Obama scandal, none of his top people will actually be held accountable for anything, but there’s been a resignation, and some more faceless mid-level bureaucrats might just get put on paid “administrative leave” before those whole mess boils over.
Feel the President’s incandescent rage, which he’s been keeping entirely bottled up in public, but he’s a volcano in private, according to what his chief of staff told CBS News:
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough defended the White House reaction to the scandals emerging from Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals around the country, saying on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that President Obama “is madder than hell – I’ve got the scars to prove it.”
In an interview with CBS News Chief White House Correspondent, McDonough said that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is the right person to lead the investigation into reports that veterans have been put on secret waiting lists to hide the number of people who were not being treated within the VA’s goal of 14 days. Several Republican lawmakers and The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, have called on Shinseki to resign.
“General Shinseki continues to work this every single day…and he will continue to work these issues until they’re fixed,” McDonough said. “The president will continue to demand that he and all of us who work for him continue to fix these things until they are functioning the way that our veterans believe they should and…so that they get the services and the benefits that they have earned.”
Obama’s Hulk-like rage over this outrageous treatment of our military veterans is being kept in a bottle because he’s still running political calculations on scandal damage control. He’s survived all his other scandals by refusing to hold anyone accountable – it usually takes a few days, and maybe an internal poll or two, before someone says the magic words “I take responsibility,” and the Administration begins tapping its foot while it waits for its faithful media servants to declare the story over.
In this case, Shinseki said the magic words “I take responsibility,” which in the Obama era mean exactly the opposite of the literal English translation of the words, so he’s supposed to be untouchable now. (Shinseki also used almost exactly the same language as Obama’s spokespeople about how he’s “mad as hell,” which I think officially qualifies it as an Administration talking point, if not a grotesque joke.)
Robert Petzel, the undersecretary for health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs, handed in his resignation on Friday, prompting Obama’s talking-point dispensers to rush out and declare that he really got “terminated” good and hard… even though Petzel announced his plans to retire long ago, and President Madder Than Hell announced his replacement a month ago.
Students of the IRS scandal will recall that Obama used exactly the same dodge to slip through a tough news cycle after the story broke, pretending that the scheduled conclusion of Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller’s temporary tenure was a head sent rolling in the name of “accountability” for an “inexcusable” abuse of power Obama claimed he was “outraged” about.
This is comical, and sickening. Obama’s trying to run his standard obfuscate-delay-yawn strategy for scandal control, but the media seems less eager to buy it this time, perhaps because they’re still smarting from bombshell scoops on Benghazi and the IRS delivered by watchdog groups.
As the scope of the VA scandal expands, and it becomes clear the deliberate falsification of records was a systemic problem Washington was aware of before the scandal blew up on CNN, Democrats grow more nervous about the political fallout. This isn’t going to be a story that can be stuffed in the freezer until the midterm elections are over, not with groups like the American Legion still calling for Shinseki’s termination… and the Administration’s attempts to spin the story aware are only making these critics angrier. Back to CBS’ Face the Nation from this weekend:
In a separate interview on “Face the Nation,” American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger stood by the organization’s insistence that Shinseki should step down.
“He should be coming forward with the same leadership he showed in the military as a four-star general into the VA and it just hasn’t happened. The accountability just hasn’t been there and I think it is systematic of the entire system,” Dellinger said. He said that under similar circumstances the CEO of a major corporation would have stepped down or a member of the military would have been relieved of duty.
In his interview with Garrett, McDonough highlighted the administration’s other efforts to help veterans like funding for the GI Bill and an increase in spending on the VA. But Dellinger said those efforts should be considered separately from the other problems being seen at VA hospitals nationwide now.
“We realize that the administration has done a lot for the veterans, but that isn’t the issue. The issue is we’re having veterans die waiting for the care that they’ve earned,” he said. “This has been an ongoing problem.”
Dellinger joined the chorus of voices insisting that President Obama must directly address the issue, but he’s not going to do that, not until his political spin operation is running at acceptable speeds. He won’t expose himself to reporter questions that would jeopardize his scandal delay tactics, or issue the sort of statement that could make Shinseki’s position untenable. As long as Shinseki stays put, Obama will believe this scandal has a half-life, and he won’t have to worry about disgruntled former employees giving inconvenient interviews.
The other great danger for President Obama in the VA scandal is the growing sense that it’s typical of his brand of Big Government. There are the obvious (and well-founded) fears that ObamaCare will transform all of American health care into a secretive, scandalous system like the VA. But this isn’t just about health care – the same sort of thing is happening everywhere you look. One agency after the next has been rocked with charges of secretive communications, the evasion of public transparency laws, deliberate rule-breaking by highly compensated officials, and spectacular wastes of taxpayer money.
What we have now is government of, by, and for the government. An aristocratic bureaucracy enriches itself at our expense, while their nominal missions are almost completely forgotten. There are no standards of performance to meet any more, because Big Government enthusiasts believe the American electorate has been permanently subdued. As long as the federal government’s failures aren’t bad enough to prompt bipartisan pitchfork-and-torch marches on Washington, every scandal can be spun away… even though we keep hearing the same story over and over again, from one agency after the next. The Leviathan State can’t even launch a website, but it still says it has first claim on every dollar we earn, and knows how to run every business in America better than its owners. Its actual performance record includes one catastrophe after the next, followed by spin tornadoes and media sideshows instead of anything even vaguely resembling accountability.
It’s remarkable, and sad, how many times this Administration has been able to run the same playbook against the American people. This might be the end of the line. If the usual pattern is followed, the next barrage of public statements from White House flacks will be outrage directed at anyone who would dare to insinuate that the President doesn’t care about veterans more than any other President – probably more than any other American – who ever lived. There’s a new story today from the Washington Times about how Obama was warned that “VA medical facilities were reporting inaccurate waiting times and experiencing scheduling failures that threatened to deny veterans timely helath care” five years ago, before this President was even inaugurated… which Team Obama will predictably use to claim the whole mess is really George Bush’s fault, another crisis unfairly dumped in the overcrowded lap of his helpless successor. It will be interesting to see if there are any wiling consumers for that nonsense beyond the dwindling ranks of the hard-core Obama faithful.