Vacillating Obama, vacationing Congress, scapegoating Shinseki

President Obama, between photo-ops with the Seattle Seahawks and applauding the students of the spelling bee, has seen fit to force the departure of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki. Congress, deeply enmeshed in another one of its many ludicrous recesses of vacationing and fundraising, successfully demanded the head of the general. The media, including many who have never shown any evidence of giving a damn about what it really takes to help American veterans, helped whip the lynch mob into a frenzy to force-feed the firing of the only public official who actually apologized for the outrages against the veterans.

I disagree with them all.

Shame on them all.

{mosads}Did Shinseki drop the ball on management of the VA waiting lines? You bet he did. Did he have company in this failure of management? You bet. The hands-off management style of the president contributed to the crisis. The over-controlling White House staff, which will not be famous for brilliant management of health care for veterans or ObamaCare, contributed. The congress that vacations more than it works, and which never provided either the funding for veterans that many veterans groups requested, or the oversight of the VA that the situation demanded, bears its share of responsibility. President George W. Bush, former Vice President Cheney and members of both parties in Congress during the Bush years, who hungered for war in Iraq but passed tax cuts instead of providing Humvees and body armor that would have saved the lives and limbs of many killed or wounded in action, should join the list of those for whom apologies might be expected.

Regarding Shinseki, the lynch mob has won, and business as usual in Washington will continue unabated, and the crisis for the vets will continue, until the real problem, known by many in power for many years, is addressed.

The president needs to request and fight for, not merely talk about, substantially increased funding for the VA to get more doctors, nurses, centers, hospital beds, psychologists and medical equipment. He would be well-advised to cut back his sporting events in the White House and increase his hands-on management and leadership. Congress would advised to cut back its ridiculous vacationing, recessing and fundraising time and pass the spending for veterans health that major veterans groups have been urging for many years.

Most of the veterans who have been served by the VA, and received health care, have received first-class treatment. Those who were unconscionably, and possibly criminally, put on phony waiting lists were victimized in large measure because the VA did not have the doctors, nurses, psychologists, centers, beds and medical equipment that should have been provided long ago.

Today, the lynch mob won.

Tomorrow, let’s do what is right for the vets.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at

Tags Department of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki
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