President Obama gave a bizarre press conference to announce the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on Friday morning. I notice the major networks are keen on snipping this performance at the two-minute mark… with good reason. The President went on for twenty more minutes, and if most Americans hear what he had to say, this White House is in very deep trouble. It was a performance so soulless, so political, so dishonest, and so disconnected from reality that it seemed almost deranged.
I’ve only been able to find the early moments of the statement in a format that could be embedded into this blog post, but C-SPAN has the whole thing here.
So far, so good, although the very fact that Obama’s trying to pass the whole thing off as an unfortunate natural catastrophe, not deliberate malfeasance and shocking incompetence from himself and Secretary Shinseki, is both predictable and annoying. He goes much too far in praising Shinseki, which is part of the Obama strategy to portray the whole affair as an incomprehensible crisis nobody could possibly have dealt with. The only reason Shinseki resigned is that the Democrat Party looked at its internal polls, had a collective heart attack, and told Obama his usual “fire no one, wave it off as a phony scandal” strategy was unacceptable, what with a tough election coming in November. Obama was dragged kicking and screaming into this press conference today; he should not be permitted to spin this as anything other than the purely political drama it was. If President Obama was any sort of leader, or even a reasonably engaged manager, the scandal never would have happened at all, and if it did, Shinseki’s resignation or sacking would have come much sooner.
But it’s the President’s ensuing remarks that get really weird and outrageous. It’s not hard to see what he was trying to do: prepare the Sunday-show battleground with official talking points for all the little Democrat robots to parrot in unison. They’ve trying to unite behind the insulting and ridiculous position that the only real problem with the VA was insufficient funding – throw more tax money at the problem and everything will be fine!
Obama took this political narrative to the absurd extent of claiming that the secret waiting lists were some sort of computer glitch, caused by outmoded hardware that makes it too cumbersome to review patient information. Newsflash: this scandal is about the widespread and deliberate falsification of records, not a couple of old Windows boxes crashing. Also, we saw what Barack Obama can do with a billion dollars’ worth of new computer and software during the ObamaCare launch last October, and it wasn’t pretty. The patience of American voters for the supposedly brilliant and ultra-modern Obama blaming all his problems on the IT department is wearing very thin.
Another talking point Obama wanted to convey to his Sunday-show humanoids was a variation on the old “I just read about all this in the newspapers” dodge, in which he claims he and his top officials had no idea anything was wrong. This is a straight-up, unambiguous, documented lie. Obama and Shinseki have been informed about various aspects of the VA crisis for years. Fixing it was one of Obama’s often-repeated campaign promises. Democrats aren’t going to enjoy trying to defend Obama’s insanely exaggerated claims of innocence on the talk-show circuit.
Then you come to Obama’s talking point about how super-duper-responsible his Administration is, which burbled out of the President as a laugh line good enough to put any sentient listener on the floor laughing: “This is my Administration, and I always take responsibility for what happens.” Putting it that way is going to make it very difficult for his surrogates to flog their “Relax, Obama’s got this” talking point over the weekend, especially since one of their other objectives is to portray the President and his departed VA Secretary as innocent naifs who had no idea what was going on.
After nearly six years of allowing the VA problem to fester, Obama has no leverage to push his talk about “distractions” or pawn himself off as eager to roll up his sleeves and fix the problem, as long as those dastardly Republican witch hunters stay out of his way. That’s not only going to fall flat, it will enrage veterans and their families. The last thing they want right now is a moldy slice of Obama’s tired old campaign strategy.
The idea that taking responsibility merely requires mouthing the words “I take responsibility” is long past its sell-by date. So is this President’s perpetual effort to paint himself as a newcomer who just rolled into the Oval Office last week, and can’t believe the mess he found. That excuse was obviously going to grow more stale as the endless years of the Obama presidency ground on, even to the undiscriminating palates of Obama cultists in the media. They’ll make another effort to protect Obama by attempting to quietly forget 80 percent of what he said in his press conference today, but they probably won’t have much appetite for defending it.
The disconnect between politics and reality was on dramatic display in Obama’s press conference today, presented by a man who is evidently incapable of distinguishing between the two. At a moment when he might have been able to contain some of the damage by accepting Secretary Shinseki’s resignation with a short and contrite statement, he followed his worst instincts. When he made all those campaign promises of reform, Senator Obama warned us about the dangers of putting someone like President Obama in charge of the VA.
Update: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced he was stepping down on Friday as well. It looks like everyone has a breaking point, after all.