At first, I assumed that a lack of leaks during the first part of the Eric Shinseki meeting meant that the embattled VA Secretary would keep his job, especially since the White House hadn’t scheduled a presser to follow it. That’s changed, though, with the sudden call to the Briefing Room. Obama will speak shortly, and CBS News already has the live feed running:
And… Shinseki’s out:
Obama: “A few minutes ago Sec Shinseki offered me his own resignation. With considerable regret, I accepted."
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) May 30, 2014
Update: Sloan Gibson will take over as interim VA Secretary, but the bigger question will be for Obama. Why not make this change last week, instead of waiting nine extra days to hear the obvious? Why hold last week’s presser?
Update: First question was about what happened to Obama’s confidence in Shinseki, expressed just last week? “Ric’s judgment,” apparently meaning that Obama didn’t ask for his resignation.
Update: “We’ve got to deal with Congress,” Obama said to explain that Shinseki would likely be distracted by Congressional demands for his resignation. This is the same Congress that increased the VA budget by 78% over the past six budget cycles. Shinseki was also “offended” that bad news didn’t get to him fast enough, Obama said, and used the passive voice to explain that “the structures didn’t exist” to deliver it. Er, Shinseki was in charge for more than five years. Whose fault was that?
Update: Obama, when asked about his own responsibility, notes that he’s been talking about since he was in the Senate, but then denied that warnings about wait-list fraud never reached the executive level at the VA or the White House. The transition team was warned before Obama took office about that very problem, and warnings continued through last year.
Raffi Williams makes a good point:
He knew about this when he was in the Senate but still did nothing, another broken promise #ObamaFail
— Raffi Williams (@Raffiwilliams) May 30, 2014
Obama on VA scheduling "This is stuff that is imminently fixable..but we've got to know about it.."
— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) May 30, 2014
After five-plus years, ignorance of the problems on which Obama ran for President in 2008 is a particularly cynical excuse.
Update: Reason’s Jesse Walker makes a good point:
What I'd really like to see is some resignations—or at least a little contrition—from the people who held up the VA as a health-care model.
— Jesse Walker (@notjessewalker) May 30, 2014
Update: Presser over, but Obama left the dais as the White House press corps asked him, “Do you owe an apology?” That’s a pretty good question, as opposed to the final question which asked Obama whether Shinseki was getting scapegoated.