Who deserves the blame for the wait-list fraud and lack of medical care for veterans at the VA? According to a new CBS poll, a third of Americans blame the man who has been in charge of the VA for more than five years. And another 17% blame his boss:
Americans are split in their thoughts over who they think is most to blame for the problems at Veterans Affairs department medical facilities, which involve allegations that VA hospitals kept delays in treatment off the books and that patients may have died waiting for care.
But Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and the VA (33 percent) receive more blame than either local VA hospitals (28 percent) or President Obama (17 percent). About a quarter doesn’t have an opinion.
Partisan differences emerge: While 31 percent of Republicans blame Shinseki and the VA for the problems, nearly as many blame Mr. Obama (30 percent). Fewer Democrats and independents say the president is at fault; they are more likely to blame Shinseki and the VA and local VA hospitals.
The poll does suffer in one respect in the way that the question was framed. Those were the only choices offered to respondents. Had they offered an option to blame Congress, it would be interesting to see how many would have opted for that choice, and that number may be represented in the relatively high number (23%) who didn’t make a choice at all.
The next question on the poll also hints at that impulse. Respondents ended up in a virtual split (42/41) over whether long waits are caused by inadequate resources or poor management of resources. Interestingly, each of the three political demographics have 42% blaming inadequate resources. A plurality of Republicans (47%) blame poor management, while Democrats (39%) and independents (40%) are less focused on that explanation. Perhaps the media should be exploring the massive increases in resources given to Shinseki by Congress over the last five years, as the OMB data clearly shows.
Obama’s defenders have begun mumbling about “Green Lanternism” again in response to his executive management failures. Ron Fournier blasts that argument into orbit:
The inconvenient truth is that Klein’s kind of thinking lets the president off the hook, unaccountable for promises broken and opportunities lost. Rather than change Washington’s culture of polarization, zero-sum game politics, and spin, Obama surrendered to it almost immediately. On health insurance reform, government debt, and loosening immigration laws, Obama shares blame with obstinate House Republicans for fumbling potential compromise. On climate change and gun control, Obama knew (or should have known) his rhetoric was setting up voters for disappointment. Rather than roll back Bush-era terrorism programs that curb civil liberties, Obama deepened them.
The launch of the Affordable Care Act and the worsening of conditions at the Veterans Affairs Department are emblematic of Obama’s inattention to the hard work of governing. He is slow to fire poor-serving Cabinet members and quick to dismiss controversies as “phony scandals.” To the Obama administration, transparency is a mere talking point. The great irony of his progressive presidency: Democrats privately admit that Obama has done as much to undermine the public’s faith in government as his GOP predecessor. The Green Lantern Theory is an excuse for failure.
Let’s recap on this. Candidate Obama campaigned on this issue, and president-elect Obama and Shinseki were briefed on it during the transition, and VA officials had been warned as early as 2010 that wait-list fraud was still occurring. Congress has increased Shinseki’s budget by 78% since the 2009 inauguration as demanded by Obama. Yet the White House claims to be shocked, shocked that this problem exists — and that the man to deal with it is the same man who let it fester for five-plus years while Congress poured money into his organization.
You don’t have to be Green Lantern to address that issue. You just need to be a competent executive. Right now, we don’t have that at the VA, nor at the White House either — and voters are starting to notice.