Tag Archives: VA

Trump gets it right — apparently — with new VA pick

How about this?

Donald J. Trump has nominated a proven administrator to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Yep, Robert Wilkie is the acting VA secretary who’s been filling in since the firing of David Shulkin in March over Shulkin’s expensive travel habits.

The president turned first to the White House physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, to lead the VA. This, despite Dr. Jackson’s lack of administrative experience. Then came allegations of some bad behavior: hostile workplace, over-prescribing of medicine and — oops! — drinking on the job.

Out went Jackson.

Now the president has selected Wilkie. Man, I hope he sails through the U.S. Senate confirmation process and is able to assume the role formally that he has been performing for the past three months.

Let’s not just yet put this nomination in the bank. Trump’s inability to vet these nominees has gotten him into trouble.

The president didn’t vet Jackson’s past adequately before nominating him to lead the VA.

The VA is a huge federal agency that needs an experienced hand to lead it. The agency also needs someone who is clean, ethical, sharp and has the veterans’ issues at the top of his mind at all times.

I am one of those 20 million veterans who is enrolled in the agency’s medical care program. Therefore, I demand a careful selection process when choosing a veterans affairs secretary.

Meanwhile, I will hope Robert Wilkie is the right man for the job. It’s good that senators on both sides of the aisle are much more enthusiastic about Wilkie than they were about Jackson.

My first benchmark for the correctness of this selection is whether Wilkie will reject the notion of privatizing VA functions.

Do not go there. Ever!

Dr. Jackson no longer the White House doc

When it rains, it … um … pours all over Dr. Ronny Jackson.

The one-time nominee to become secretary of veterans affairs now no longer is the White House physician. Jackson pulled out of the VA job over allegations that he over-prescribed medication, promoted a hostile workplace and drank on the job.

The allegations infuriated Donald J. Trump.

Now he has a new White House doctor. Sean Conley, a Navy officer, is now looking after the president’s health.

As for Dr. Jackson’s future, let’s just say he’s now tarred with the allegations that came from several sources from within the military. It got nasty as the questions kept piling up around the Navy rear admiral. His conduct was called into serious question.

He reportedly is a fine physician, having examined Presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama in addition to Donald Trump. He just was considered unqualified because he never had led an organization as huge as the VA.

Then came the questions about his conduct.

His backing out of his job as White House sawbones does bring to mind a question: Was there actual substance to the allegations that scuttled Dr. Jackson’s nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs?

Trump knows things? Spill it, Mr. POTUS!

Donald Trump said the following — among many other nonsensical things — at a political rally in Michigan: “I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said them, he’d never be elected again.”

What do you suppose they are?

I’m guessing they’re the kinds of “things” Trump said he knew about former President Barack Obama’s place of birth. Or about the “millions of illegal immigrants” who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Or about the wiretap that President Obama ordered on his campaign office in New York.

Of course, the president produced not a shred of evidence for anything he said he had.

Now he’s threatening Sen. Jon Tester with “things” he allegedly knows. Tester’s sin? Oh, all he did was question whether Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Ronny Jackson, was fit for the job.

The Montana Democrat is not to blame for the president’s failure to vet Dr. Jackson properly before offering him as a VA secretary nominee. Tester isn’t to blame for Trump’s shabby and sloppy appointment process.

So now he’s threatening a U.S. senator? You know, I’m understanding better now what fired FBI Director James Comey means when he says Trump governs like a “mob boss.”

Disgraceful.

Trump makes laughable demand for resignation

Jon Tester is doing his job as a U.S. senator.

The Montana Democrat spoke out against Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. As the ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Tester said Dr. Ronny Jackson — the White House physician — was unfit to lead the VA.

Sen. Tester based his judgment on allegations leveled by at least 20 members of the military, who accused Jackson of a number of misdeeds: over prescribing of medication; instigating a hostile work environment; drinking on the job.

Jackson pulled his name out of consideration for the VA job.

What, then, does the president do? He calls for Tester’s resignation from the Senate.

Let’s be clear. Sen. Tester did not conduct himself improperly. There isn’t a hint of malfeasance. No fraud. No scandal. No funny business, hanky-panky, or scandalous conduct.

All the man has done is his job as a United States senator, which he takes seriously enough to incur the unbridled — and unhinged — wrath of a president who takes himself far more seriously than the high office to which he was elected.

Trump’s tirade via Twitter against Tester provides yet another example of how the president behaves, how his mind works and how this man doesn’t respect the dignity of his office.

If anyone should consider resigning, to my mind it’s Donald Trump!

Trump wants Sen. Tester to quit because … ?

I’ve said this before and I will keep saying it for as long as I damn well please … but Donald J. Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing or saying.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., led the U.S. Senate criticism of Dr. Ronny Jackson, the president’s nominee to become secretary of veterans affairs. Allegations surfaced from within the military that Jackson — a Navy admiral — enabled a hostile work environment, that he over-prescribed medication and drank on the job.

Tester called on Jackson — the White House physician — to withdraw his nomination. Dr. Jackson did this week. He pulled out, calling the allegations false and saying they had become a “distraction.”

Fine. Hit the road, Doc. Don’t let the door hit you in the … whatever.

The president, though, once again talked way past the sale by saying Tester should resign his Senate seat. Why? Well, because he was overly harsh in his criticism of Dr. Jackson. Tester, though, is far from the only senator to say Jackson shouldn’t serve as head of the VA. A number of, um, Republicans joined that anti-Jackson chorus, too. Is the GOP president going to ask any or all of them to quit? Of course he won’t. That’s because he suffers from selective indignation.

As for Trump’s call for Tester to quit, it is just so much more malarkey coming from the mouth of the guy whose White House staff failed miserably in vetting Dr. Jackson. All they had to ask him was: Is there anything in your background, given the current climate in Washington, that should cause us any concern?

They didn’t. He did. He’s gone. Tester — and others — called him out.

Mr. President, just go find another VA secretary and this time, be sure he or she is free of the baggage that scuttled Admiral Jackson’s nomination.

Let’s look for a baggage-free VA boss

Ronny Jackson called a halt to his nomination to become the next secretary of veterans affairs.

The active-duty Navy admiral and the current White House physician pulled out after allegations on several fronts piled up: hostile work environment, over-prescribing of drugs and drinking on the job.

Admiral Jackson called it a “distraction.” He denies the allegations.

And of course, Donald J. Trump, stands by his man. He also said U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who serves as ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, will pay a “big price” because Tester had the gall to raise the questions about Jackson’s conduct.

According to the Texas Tribune: While a respected physician, many in Washington have questioned whether Jackson has the skill-set and managerial experience to run one of the most sprawling and troubled government bureaucracies. Bipartisan leaders of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs officially delayed Jackson’s confirmation hearing earlier this week.

How about starting over, Mr. President? Trump has said that qualified individuals are breaking down the White House doors looking to work in his administration, even though there is evidence to the contrary. Are any of them qualified to lead a huge federal agency charged with caring for our nation’s 20 million veterans?

What’s more, let us all hope as well that the president can find someone who doesn’t have the baggage that Admiral Jackson was lugging around.

Jackson mess seems to fit a pattern

Let’s review for a brief moment some of Donald J. Trump’s key Cabinet appointments.

I thought it would be worthwhile to look back a bit in the wake of the Dr. Ronny Jackson nomination to become head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Jackson is a fine physician who has a good rapport with the president, which seems to be the major — perhaps the only — reason Trump selected him to lead the VA. He has no experience in leading an agency of such size and importance. His nomination is in dire peril over allegations of drinking on the job and over-prescribing of medicine.

  • Dr. Ben Carson is a renowned neurosurgeon who now runs the Department of Housing and Urban Development. His experience in running a huge federal agency? None, although he said he once visited a public housing complex.
  • Betsy DeVos was educated in private schools; she sent her children to private schools. She has no direct experience or exposure to public education. Yet she runs the U.S. Department of (public) Education.
  • Rick Perry once declared he wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy. Now he is the secretary of the agency he once promised to wipe away.
  • Scott Pruitt served as Oklahoma attorney general and sued the federal government repeatedly over what he said were onerous regulations designed to protect our environment. Now he is head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Jim Bridenstine had no science background before Trump nominated him to lead NASA, the nation’s space agency.
  • The Trump administration has burned through four communications directors in less than 18 months. One of them had, um, no experience in the communications field.

Is there a pattern here? Sure there is. The fellow who nominated all of them to their high offices has no political/government/public service either.

The first public office the president of the United States ever sought was the one he occupies at this moment. He has no experience in government. None in public service.

He doesn’t know a damn thing about the value of public service, nor does he seem to appreciate why people serve the public.

There will be more drama and chaos to come. Of that I am certain.

But … the president tells it like it is.

Cabinet picks need ‘extreme vetting,’ too

U.S. senators are growing frustrated over Donald J. Trump’s lack of vetting of Cabinet picks? Really? Well, who in the world knew?

The latest example of lax vetting comes to us via the president’s pick to be the next secretary of veterans affairs. Dr. Ronny Jackson’s nomination to lead the VA is in serious danger. Allegations have surfaced — from military sources — that Dr. Jackson has instigated a “hostile work environment” and has been drinking on the job.

Oops! Why didn’t the president’s team pick up on this?

Trump selected Jackson, an active-duty Navy rear admiral, because — apparently — he and the doc have a good relationship. The president likes and trusts the White House physician who has worked for two previous presidents. I suppose, therefore, that one could ask the question about “lax vetting” of Presidents Bush and Obama as well.

But the VA is a vast bureaucracy, the second-largest agency within the federal government. Jackson has zero administrative experience managing an agency of such size and magnitude.

As The Associated Press has reported: “The White House still seems to be feeling its way on the nomination process,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, “and does not fully appreciate how important it is to do a thorough vetting and FBI background check on nominees.”

The president vowed to implement an “extreme vetting” procedure for immigrants entering the United States. I happen to support the principle of more rigorous examination of those seeking entry into this country.

Why, though, doesn’t the president impose an extreme vetting concept among those he selects for the highest positions in government? Indeed, a simple question or two could have avoided the hideous publicity surrounding Ronny Jackson’s nomination to lead the VA.

How about asking him something like this: Are there any workplace issues — anything at all — that might pose a problem for your nomination, Dr. Jackson?

Simple, yes?

VA nominee on the ropes?

So help me I didn’t see this one coming.

Navy Admiral Dr. Ronny Jackson’s nomination to become the next veterans affairs secretary did raise an eyebrow our two. Mine weren’t among them initially.

Now we hear that the White House physician allegedly promoted an inappropriate workplace environment and might have drunk on the job. What’s more, the president of the United States has given Jackson some cover, enabling him to withdraw his nomination if he believes it is in his best interest.

It well might be, given the crescendo of criticism that is building.

The U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has postponed Dr. Jackson’s confirmation hearing indefinitely. Hmm. I think that spells big trouble. Jackson said he is “disappointed” but adds that he is ready to answer all the questions that will come his way.

What I believe we have here is a developing “distraction” that is going to yank attention away from the work that Dr. Jackson is supposed to do on behalf of the nation’s 20 million military veterans; I am one of them and I believe he needs to be focused exclusively on that important work.

Hostile work environment? Over-prescribing of meds? Drinking on the job?

Good grief! This is on top of the criticism that Dr. Jackson hasn’t run an agency anywhere near the size of the monstrous bureaucracy that is the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Donald Trump is right: Whether he stays in the game is Dr. Jackson’s call. I won’t be a bit surprised if he pulls away from this big job.

And that brings up another question: Why can’t the president find competent and squeaky-clean folks to do these jobs?

NASA boss lacks scientific credentials?

I am going to hand it to Donald J. Trump.

The president has a knack of selecting the most unusual individuals for key government posts. He told us while running for the office that he would be an “unconventional” president.

Get a load of this: The president’s selection to lead NASA has no science backgound. Jim Bridenstine is a Republican member of Congress. He once flew jets in the Navy and also ran an air and space museum in Tulsa, Okla.

That’s it. He’s a lawmaker and is the first member of Congress to be nominated for this key scientific post.

It’s a bit of a pattern. The next veterans affairs secretary is slated to be Dr. Ronny Jackson, who’s never run a government agency of any size, let alone one as huge as the Department of Veterans Affairs. Trump nominated renowned brain surgeon Dr. Ben Carson to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Bridenstine is now going to administer the agency with the mission of space exploration. The NASA administrator post generally has gone to people from inside the agency or those with vast military experience.

Bridenstine is a politician who has stated doubts about climate change, which NASA has researched extensively for decades.

The U.S. Senate will  vote later this week on Bridenstine’s nomination. He’ll likely get confirmed.

As Vox.com has reported: But it was never clear if Bridenstine could clear the 50 Senate votes needed to nab the job. He faced unanimous opposition from Democrats and from a few within his own party. Notably, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was worried about giving the job to a politician.

NASA is “the one federal mission which has largely been free of politics,” Rubio said in September, echoing the same concerns as his Florida colleague Sen. Bill Nelson, a former astronaut and the top Democrat on the Commerce Committee. “I just think it could be devastating for the space program,” Rubio said.

My hope is that he doesn’t run into the ground an agency that is supposed to reach for the stars … and beyond.