Michael Tomasky over at the Daily Beast tells it like it is.
• “No Drama’ Obama” should have fired Shinseki a few weeks ago:
The only thing that the delay of the inevitable accomplished was to give Republicans two weeks in which to repeat and repeat and repeat the criticisms that he’s aloof and out of touch and that he doesn’t care about the military.
Tomasky adds that the second charge will not stick as, nearly six years into his presidency, “most Americans are persuaded that Obama is in fact not out to sabotage our glorious armed forces.”
• Shinseki should have taken responsibility for the scandal a couple of weeks ago and resigned:
I yearn for an America where people in positions of leadership actually take actual responsibility for their actual failures… Shinseki is an honorable patriot who’s been smeared unjustly in the past (more on that later). But here, he should have just stood up two weeks ago and said: “Yep, I did a bad job running the VA. I’m really sorry. It’s time for me to leave.” (emphasis mine)
As to people in positions of leadership taking actual responsibility for their actual failures, Tomasky also includes “our entire litigious ass-covering culture, both public and private sectors (the private sector is in fact far, far worse in this way; half the gonefs who sent the country into near-Depression are still making billions).”
Now to Tomasky’s “more on that later.”
Tomasky sets the record straight on how Congress cut funding for Veterans Affairs; on the “the ongoing and woeful shortage in the VA and the VHA (Veterans’ Health Administration) of doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners;” on how whoever ends up running VA should be a bit of an ass-kicker who can go up to the Republicans in Congress, “the same people who bash Obama and pull out their violins whenever the topic of veterans’ care arises” and tell them “to put up or shut up.”
But Tomasky saves his most blistering attack for George Bush and Dick Cheney, who may have precipitated if not caused the VA crisis.
He points to the fact that “lately, we have a lot more returning veterans than normal; more veterans than we’ve seen since Vietnam”:
This is the kind of thing that happens when you go around starting wars thinking you’re going to win them in six weeks and then being totally unprepared for reality when you don’t. Obama didn’t create this situation, although of course with respect to Afghanistan he did add to it for a time, because he was handed such a holy mess to clean up. But in the main he didn’t build this army of poor men and women who’ve come home with hands blown off and heads shattered, killing themselves at unprecedented rates. George Bush and Dick Cheney did that. Surely if we’d not gone crazy after 9/11, we wouldn’t have so many veterans dealing with so much trauma in the first place, but instead would have thousands of veterans who’d spent their service at Ft. Ord rather than Fallujah.
Finally, Tomasky puts the VA “scandal” and General Eric Shinseki’s honorable service to our country in perspective.
He failed at this job, true. But at an earlier job, as Army chief of staff, he was awfully prescient about how bad things were going to get in Iraq if the United States followed the advice of Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. After Shinseki testified before that war’s start that securing Iraq would require several hundred thousand troops to pacify the country, he was subject to a relentless campaign of vilification led by those three and their associates, carried out by the right-wing media.
But Shinseki, of course, was right. And here’s the thing. He never wagged an “I told you so” finger in anybody’s face. James Fallows of The Atlantic recounts in this article that, for a book Fallows wrote on the Iraq war, he all but begged Shinseki to do that, or at least give him an interview. No dice. Shinseki, Fallows wrote, “could have had a lucrative career on the talk show/lecture circuit giving ‘I told you so’ presentations, has not indulged that taste at all.”
So while you’re thinking about Eric Shinseki, think about that episode, too. He may have messed this assignment up, but he still comes out of the wash way ahead of the people who gave us, by choice, all the damaged veterans he was supposed to care for.
Will Republicans who — according to Tomasky — are at least partly to blame for the VA crisis, be satisfied with Shinseki’s resignation and work with the administration to fix the problems?
“Today’s announcement really changes nothing,” Speaker John A. Boehner said on Friday shortly after Mr. Shinseki’s ouster, saying that congressional Republicans would continue to hold the president accountable for what transpires at the agency. “One personnel change cannot be used as an excuse to paper over a systemic problem.”
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.