Breaking: Obama calls Shinseki to White House … again; Update: Duckworth calls for his resignation

posted at 9:16 am on May 30, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Gee, two meetings with the boss in two weeks? Not bad for a Cabinet Secretary whose last face time with the President had been almost two years earlier. It’s amazing the kind of attention that a scandal can bring. Once again, the Commander in Chief has summoned his embattled subordinate for another unscheduled meeting:

President Barack Obama is summoning VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to the White House Friday morning.

The meeting comes amid mounting calls for the embattled Shinseki to resign. There are widespread allegations of treatment delays at VA hospitals around the country. Shinseki is expected to give the president an update on a review he has been conducting.

Last week, Barack Obama had the perfect set-up to dismiss Shinseki. The scandal had made it clear that Shinseki had little knowledge and even less control over the VA despite years of bragging about improvements, and despite massive growth in the VA budget (78% over six budget cycles, and $235 billion in additions over the FY2008 baseline.) Instead of asking for Shinseki’s resignation, though, Obama kept him on board and extolled Shinseki’s qualities, although pointedly not his work.

One might expect something else from the do-over. However, Shinseki spent the early part of the morning apologizing to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, and admitting that the problems at the VA are “systemic”:

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apologized Friday for what he called “irresponsible and unacceptable” practices at VA health care facilities and announced that he has started the process of firing leadership at the Phoenix facility at the epicenter of the scandal.

‘Given the facts I now know, I apologize as the senior leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs,” he said at a meeting of the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans in Washington D.C.

“I cannot explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our health care facilities,” he said. “This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform. And so I will not defend it, because it is indefensible, but I can take responsibility for it and I do.”

President Barack Obama is set to meet with Shinseki at 10:15 a.m. ET Friday “to receive an update on the situation at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Last night, Obama let it be known that he wanted to have a “serious conversation” with Shinseki about whether he was the right man to reform the organization that, er, he’s led for the past five and a half years:

President Obama said he will have a “serious conversation” with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki about whether he’s the right person to address the veterans’ care crisis.

The comment, made during an interview taped Thursday for “Live! with Kelly and Michael,” was played on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday.

With calls for him to resign hanging over his head, Shinseki on Friday will face representatives of people particularly vulnerable to his agency’s medical failings.

The problem is that Obama seems to be the last person having that conversation:

So does this mean that Shinseki will get the boot? If Obama wanted to gain himself some breathing space on the scandal, then he could have done so last week. The new IG report created a quantum leap in pressure to act since then, but if that’s what Obama had in mind, then why did the White House allow Shinseki to make his speech this morning? That sounds like the beginning of an attempt at rehabilitating Shinseki, especially with his announcement that he’s sacking the executive management at the Phoenix VA.

We’ll see. So far, the only announcement from the White House is that the meeting will take place at 10:15. If they call a presser later like they did last week, I’d bet that it won’t be to extol Shinseki’s virtues a second time.

Update: This should get the White House worried about another endorsement of Shinseki’s continued run at the VA:

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a former Veterans Affairs official who lost both of her legs while serving in combat during the Iraq war, said Friday that her former boss Eric Shinseki should resign.

“Our first priority should be the veterans and at this point whether Secretary Shinseki will stay or go is too much of a distraction,” she said in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post. “I think he has to go. He certainly loves veterans, but it’s time for new leadership, it’s time to get someone in who will put veterans first. We’ve moved away from veterans being the primacy of the conversation. It’s now a political discussion and that’s not where it should be when it comes to our nation’s heroes.”

That’s going to hurt if Obama doesn’t act today. [Updated with corrected transcription.]

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Zeke Miller @ZekeJMiller · now

Obama: “I regret that he has to resign under these circumstances, but I also have confidence in Sloan.”

Replied to 0 times

Zeke Miller @ZekeJMiller · 5s

Obama: “I want to reiterate he is a very good man.”

Replied to 0 times

Zeke Miller @ZekeJMiller · 25s

Obama says “Rick’s judgement” changed his mind

canopfor on May 30, 2014 at 11:27 AM

The Associated Press @AP · 1m

MORE: Obama says he accepted Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki’s resignation with “considerable regret”:

canopfor on May 30, 2014 at 11:28 AM

Ogabe will probably appoint Hanoi Jane Fonda to replace him.

The way WH hack ABC’s Ann “clench-face” Compton was spinning for Barky and against Shinseki on radio last night it was fairly obvious ABC already was obediently onto the WH talking points and the fall guy had been finalized.

viking01 on May 30, 2014 at 11:29 AM

Shinsheki resigned…Boy I’m glad I’m not in his shoes. Obama was super-angry and I’m glad he got to the bottom of it. Nobody’s madder than Obama, I tell ya!

Brian in Titletown on May 30, 2014 at 11:30 AM

I’m glad that’s over. Now let’s not be dredging up another phony scandal for at least a few months.////

Walter L. Newton on May 30, 2014 at 11:34 AM

Did these homeless veterans receive a free meal?

Bigbullets on May 30, 2014 at 10:07 AM

Yes, from Moochelle’s concentration camp lunch menu.

ConstantineXI on May 30, 2014 at 10:09 AM

So… they didn’t actually eat it, then.

Midas on May 30, 2014 at 11:35 AM

Resigned – with a spectacular pension and benefits, no doubt.

Midas on May 30, 2014 at 11:39 AM

I think someone is going to be madder than hell when he hears he accepted Shinseki’s resignation on the news!

Steele on May 30, 2014 at 11:41 AM

Duckworth: Yeah! Me too! (with 14 minutes to spare)

She reminds me of a Remora.

BobMbx on May 30, 2014 at 11:43 AM

“I cannot explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our health care facilities,” he said. “This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform.

I think this quote from Shinseki is telling, In the military as a leader when he said to get something done it would ussually happen, crap a lot of people take a casual comment from their Commander as gospel. I think he was in a different kind of machine with the VA. He probably thought things were getting done and done correctly because he told someone to. But as Reagan said “trust, but verify.” And he didn’t have a leader above him making sure things wee getting done, hell he4 didn’t have a leader at all.

Sven on May 30, 2014 at 11:56 AM

Off The Waiting List.

Bmore on May 30, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Oh, good, we’ve got that albatross out from around our necks, so that the intransigent Congress can get off our backs and work with us on our hard pivot to whatever issue we can use to distract from a poor economy and endless scandals.

The Schaef on May 30, 2014 at 12:49 PM

Too bad the Congress is even more incompetent with 0bamanation than 0bmanation is to Shinseki regarding getting a resignation (note to the GOP: high crimes & misdemenors call for impeachment and conviction, not hand wringing that makes you a vile accomplice to evil Dems). I realize impeachment is a political process, but nonetheless there are some things like punishing 0bama’s crimes that call for doing the right thing vs political expediency. The Dems are evil the GOP incompetent & spineless, what could go wrong!?!

russedav on June 2, 2014 at 2:24 PM

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