I was engaged in a discussion in my Facebook group, Liberals Taking Our Country Back, as to whether or not Obama can be held responsible for the current scandal regarding the VA Administration. I maintain that he must be held responsible because he’s the Commander-In-Chief and he hired Eric Shinseki to head the Dept. of Veteran Affairs.
But let’s take a step backwards for a moment. While I assign responsibility to Obama, I assign the blame to the Republicans, who have voted to deny adequate funding for the VA at every opportunity. This is why they are also to blame for what happened at Benghazi.
OK, take one step forward again. The issue with the obscenely-long wait times for medical appointments at the VA—even to have VA medical benefits approved–predates Obama by several decades, at least all the way back to John F. Kennedy. Back in the ‘70s my dad complained about not only the long wait times but the revolving door his doctors passed through since a he seemed to be assigned to a new one every six months or so.
So, my point is this: Obama was well aware of the problems and publicly promised to fix it. OK, what did he do after that? And THAT is the big unanswered question. An even better question is: what did Eric Shinseki do after that? The Bush administration handed him memos which admitted how greatly they had screwed up, what was screwed up, the hazards of keeping it screwed up, and in essence “good luck with that”. Did Shinseki call for a top-to-bottom audit of the entire system so he would have an accurate snapshot of the state of (Veterans) affairs? I don’t know, but that’s what I would have done. Did he meet with the directors of the VA Health Admin and VA Benefits Admin and request full reports from them as well? Again, I don’t know but that’s what I would have done. Did Shinseki ever come up with a plan to reform, slim down, and modernize the VA? I don’t know but…
Yes, there are plenty of mid-level bureaucrats afraid of losing their phony baloney jobs and fiefdoms who drag their feet or otherwise sabotage attempts at change. But, even in civil service, there are ways to deal with such recalcitrant, parasitical Federal employees.
And, as I see it, this is how Obama remains culpable for this mess. Had he done all that I’ve just suggested, and then in first State of the Union speech itemize all that he had found wrong with the VA and then asked every member of Congress sporting a US Flag label pin to “support our troops” in fact by approving the VA funding he was requesting and the GOP STILL refused, the Republicans would’ve gotten an earful from their constituents. And you can be sure that Republicans, who are experts in the employment of dog whistles, have very fine hearing themselves and respond like the trained dogs they view their base to be.
But, unfortunately, as on many things throughout his administrations, Obama did drop on this. He chose instead, during his first term, to concentrate on bowing to pressure from the Right to decrease the federal budget deficit against the counsel of all learned and Nobel Prize-winning economists on the Left. And now he’s paying the price, having handed the GOP and Fox yet another club to bludgeon him over the head with. And it looks like this time, the hits are going to leave permanent bruises on his presidency. Maybe it’s time he got out in front of these big issues instead of always playing catch up.