No defense for Shinseki

It's Memorial Day weekend, a fitting moment and marker as the Obama administration tries to contain the devastating scandal engulfing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, secretary of the VA for five years now, has reached out to vets in an open letter intended to show his concern and stress that accountability is at hand. When and how are the small matters both Shinseki and President Obama have been avoiding amid an outcry and search for answers over why — since there has been evidence that books have been cooked at VA hospitals since 2005 — this was allowed to burgeon to a point where 40 deaths have now been blamed on waiting times and delays at facilities in Phoenix and similar malpractice has taken place at 25 other facilities. In his letter, Shinseki spoke of the new VA Office of the Inspector General investigation as well as an audit being conducted by "teams that are independent of the facilities they are visiting." He concluded that "[y]ou and your families deserve to have full faith in your VA, and we intend to earn it every day." In other words, Shinseki is acknowledging that faith has been shattered, but also that he is hanging on to his job.

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Obama remains as stoic as ever, as he always does, asking questions about whether pending investigations (layered on top of similar investigations that turned up wrongdoing) will show there is a "systemic" problem. Perhaps it is "episodic," the president wondered aloud in his long-awaited first comments on the story this week. At 26 facilities, when practices have been documented going back to 2005, we aren't talking about episodes here, Mr. President.

Obama's comments were so late and weak that Democrat Rep. David Scott (Ga.) erupted on the House floor, saying he was disappointed in Obama's response and that "Mr. President, we need urgency." Though firing Shinseki would help no one affected by the potentially criminal conduct of the VA, nothing was resolved or repaired on his watch. Indeed, the VA became — or remained — an atmosphere in which corruption and malfeasance were allowed to thrive.

It may take a while for Obama to figure this out, but Democrats can no longer sit by and defend Shinseki and Obama's defense of him.

Please remember and thank our veterans this Memorial Day.

IS THE VA SCANDAL ANOTHER KNOCK AGAINST OBAMACARE? AskAB returns Tuesday, May 27. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.