I wrote in passing yesterday that if President Obama or the people of this country had any self-respect, he’d resign over the scandal of the Veterans Affairs hospitals, which needlessly sentenced an unknown number of American veterans to death through their combination of managerial incompetence, medical malpractice, and monstrously cruel indifference to their clients. Other heads of government have resigned for less. President Obama presented himself to the public as an authority in the field of health-care management and as an executive who not only would insist upon but also would in fact achieve the highest standards in transparent, honest, competent government. He has failed, comprehensively. An honest man acknowledges his failures.

Perhaps it is the case that he did not know how bad things were in the VA system. Set aside the question of whether he should have known, for instance by finding the time to take the occasional meeting with General Shinseki, a task the president had not undertaken in more than two years. Sitting behind the Resolute desk means taking responsibility for the totality of the executive branch of the U.S. government, which includes a great many things that are outside of one’s immediate knowledge or control.