The good news: The White House finally began to show a little leadership last night after nearly every vulnerable Democrat in Congress demanded Eric Shinseki’s resignation, following the release of the interim IG report on the VA scandal. The bad news? The Obama administration has chosen the Faber College model of leadership:
President Barack Obama hasn’t decided to fire Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki — at least, not yet.
But he has reached the point where he doesn’t know if Shinseki will be able to fix the problems at the VA, White House aides said Wednesday.
When the president essentially put the VA secretary on probation last week, he said his red line in this situation would be evidence that the misconduct at Veterans Affairs had to be “systemic.”
The VA Inspector General’s report released Wednesday says the evidence is clear: there are “systemic patient safety issues and possible wrongful deaths.”
But while the IG report didn’t help Shinseki’s case, White House aides say the president’s still waiting to make a final decision until he has more information: a report from Shinseki himself due to the White House this week and one from Rob Nabors, the deputy chief of staff he put in charge of a separate review, which is due in June.
So, it’s safe to say that “systemic” was an Obama red line. Perhaps he’ll opt for double secret probation now that the IG has confirmed that fraud is systemic in Eric Shinseki’s VA. West Wing attorneys are already looking for that little-known codicil in the Obama administration charter (mildly NSFW):
By the way, the attempt to hide atrocious performance isn’t limited to VA clinics and hospitals, either. The House Veterans Affairs Committee held a rare evening hearing yesterday, and panel members got angry when VA officials failed to comply with document requests:
House members lashed out at Veterans Affairs officials Wednesday evening over a broadening VA medical scandal that has increasingly prompted calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs, aggressively cutting off the VA officials sent to testify and promising stepped-up oversight. The House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, which began without opening statements for the three VA officials, stretched past 10 p.m. with a second round of questioning for members.
Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), the committee’s chairman, denounced the department for failing to comply with the committee’s request for all emails and documents about the alleged destruction of waiting lists at the VA’s Phoenix medical facility. …
The VA officials’ testimony did little to slow the criticism from lawmakers, including several Democrats. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) asked each of the witnesses whether they felt personally responsible for the deaths of the veterans in Phoenix, and she asked Mooney at one point whether she would resign.
Members repeatedly took aim at the officials for referring questions to the VA’s general counsel, who was not at the hearing.
Why should Mooney resign? Her boss isn’t resigning, and no one’s firing her for poor performance … or anyone else, for that matter. Instead, everyone wants to form more study committees and put people on “probation” while vets wait four months to see a doctor, despite having increased the VA budget 78% in six budget cycles.
The question will be just how much longer Obama intends to let this fester without taking real executive action. Obama had the perfect set-up last week to move Shinseki out of the way and gain some political breathing room, but instead decided to double down on failure. Now, canning Shinseki will look weak rather than strong, but sticking with the status quo will look flat-out impotent. If the White House has any sense at all, Shinseki will be out by tomorrow evening at the latest (the classic Friday-afternoon news dump), or this afternoon.