Lloyd Austin seems to have lost sight of an important fact of a grownup’s life … which is that everyone must answer to someone else.
Therefore, for the U.S. defense secretary to keep his whereabouts hidden from those to whom he reports was a serious mistake. There needs to be some action taken to prevent this kind of keep-away from ever recurring.
Austin was hospitalized for four days before the brass at the White House knew about it. He had gone into the hospital for a routine surgical procedure. He didn’t tell the fellow who hired him, President Biden, nor anyone on the president’s staff.
One of his deputies stood in for him while he was “away,” which in itself is no big deal; Cabinet officials have done more of that since the COVID pandemic ravaged the nation.
It is troubling, though, that the individual who runs the Pentagon, the nation’s military establishment, would treat his absence from public view in such a cavalier fashion. The weirdness of this episode is illustrated by the fact that Austin is a retired Army four-star general who no doubt never would tolerate such secrecy from his subordinates in the military.
Politico reports: White House and Pentagon aides insist that Austin’s job is not in jeopardy — at least not yet. But they are sticking to that line despite seeming to lack full information about what’s actually been going on at the Pentagon. The precise nature of Austin’s surgery, medical complications and even his current condition remain unclear or addressed only in vague terms. Senior Defense Department and White House officials still don’t know the details of the procedure.
What the hell? The White House still doesn’t know the “details of the procedure”? Hey, Secretary Austin isn’t some chump mid-level bureaucrat. He is sixth in line to the presidency. He runs an agency that spends about $800 billion a year to keep us safe from our enemies.
The White House needs to know at all times the defense secretary’s status. For that matter, I want — and I deserve — to know what is occurring when it involves the defense boss.
Must he be fired over this? Probably not … but damn, he needs to shed this misbegotten need for privacy.