Gee, I wonder how this will play at the DSCC? Its leadership in the Senate wants Democrats to sit on their hands and do nothing about the VA scandal except issue deep thoughts about addressing it “administratively.” Their hand-picked candidates in Georgia and Kentucky, where the DSCC hopes to steal a march on the GOP this fall, reject that approach and demand that Barack Obama replace Eric Shinseki at the top of the VA:
Michelle Nunn, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, this morning split with the Obama administration and called for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in response to a growing scandal over delayed treatment and faked records.
“There is growing evidence that the Department of Veterans Affairs needs new leadership in order to reform its badly broken bureaucracy,” Nunn said in a campaign release.
Nunn’s call comes one day after Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic candidate in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race, also demanded Shinseki’s head.
Actually, Nunn and Grimes aren’t alone on the Democratic bench calling for Shinseki to step down, either:
Democrat Rick Weiland, who is running for South Dakota’s open Senate seat, also called for Shinseki’s ouster, as did a Democrat running for an open House seat in New Jersey and two Republicans challenging vulnerable Democrats in northern Minnesota House districts.
Take Weiland with a Lot’s-wife-sized grain of salt, though. He also blamed the government shutdown for the VA’s woes, as though a two-week hiatus in October 2013 was what prompted warnings in 2010 and 2012 as well as earlier in 2013 about wait-list fraud and unconscionable wait times. Weiland also might want to familiarize himself with the VA’s history of budget increases over Shinseki’s tenure, too, before shooting off his mouth any further on Republican blame for a Democratic administration’s incompetence.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel demands accountability … except at the top, or something:
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that “someone has to be accountable” for the growing allegations of misconduct and treatment delays at Veterans Affairs hospitals, but the focus of the investigation should be to “fix the problem” rather than fire embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Speaking to CBS News’ Charlie Rose aboard the USS Oak Hill in New York City, Hagel was asked about reports of misconduct, treatment delays and falsified records at VA facilities nationwide – including allegations that veterans may have died waiting for care at a Phoenix VA hospital.
“Any time there is an issue or a problem or a veteran doesn’t get service – or certainly if a veteran dies because he or she doesn’t get service,” Hagel said, “there’s no higher responsibility our country has than to these people who serve and sacrifice.”
Hagel said that despite the growing scandal, he still supports Shinseki, who promised a crackdown on the Phoenix VA hospital where staff allegedly kept a secret list of patients to hide delays in care. That hospital is among 26 being investigated nationwide, according to the VA inspector general.
Is that how accountability works? The man who allowed the incompetence and fraud to flourish for five-plus years while getting a 78% increase in annual funding is the one man who can fix the problems now that they’ve been exposed? I’m tempted to ask how Hagel defines “accountable,” but I’m afraid the answer will be too depressing.
With Democrats calling for Shinseki’s head on the campaign trail, how long will Senate Democrats continue to hold out for Shinseki and Obama? How long will Obama hold out while taking broadsides from his own side? So far, the conventional wisdom among Democrats in Washington is that this scandal won’t play into the midterms, but at least two of their marquee candidates in this cycle clearly disagree. We’ll see if that calculus changes minds inside the Beltway.