President Obama’s decision not to fire VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is less mysterious than it seems. Here’s why he’s keeping him on:
- Obama is Shinseki, and Shinseki is Obama. Eric Shinseki assumed office the day after Obama did in 2009. For Obama to fire Shinseki at this point is to admit his own inadequacy and to reveal what I assume to be true: that Obama was not paying personal attention to the VA and not cracking the whip.
You see, when the White House, and the president in particular, shows an interest in an agency or an issue, people get very nervous, and what is normally a cumbersome, immovable bureaucracy starts to creak to life.
If Obama ever met with Shinseki one-on-one or even held a phone call with him, I’d be surprised.
- What happens once you fire Shinseki? Well, as the Julie Pace of the Associated Press points out in the video below, you have to replace him.
And unless Obama replaces him with John McCain, that would mean weeks of heated discussion about the nominee, a heightened focus on the issue, and dramatic Senate hearings – all as we approach Election Day 2014. Not good for Obama and the Democrats.
But Obama’s executive incompetence is showing. What the White House should do is sack Shinseki now, nominate a replacement next week, and insist Congress hold hearings immediately because of the urgent need to get someone to work on the problems. Then Obama might get the issue behind him well before summer is out.
- I think Obama feels bad for Shinseki. I really do. Everyone seems to agree that Shinseki, who had part of his foot blown off in Vietnam and served his country in the army for nearly 40 years, is a patriot and a decent man who cares about veterans. And he has made some progress with some of the VA’s system problems
But caring is not enough. The issue is too big.
Again, Obama does not know how operate as a chief executive. You have to fire people, even good people. There’s not a single major private company in America where Shinseki would be kept on after a fiasco such as this.
The health of our veterans is more important than Eric Shinseki’s feelings.
Here are a couple of reporters I respect, Associated Press White House reporter Julie Pace and National Journal’s Ron Fournier, himself a former AP White House reporter, discussing Shinseki.
Fournier, who is tough but not prone to hyperbole, calls the White House “pathetic.”
What did (Obama) do? Like he did with a lot of other things – he didn’t pay attention, he didn’t govern. Now he’s holding nobody accountable.