Old and busted: The VA scandal is just another Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to privatize a government-run health care system. New hotness: We have to do something about this widespread VA scandal… before Republicans privatize the VA, or something. Hillary Clinton tried walking back her comments that shrugged off a scandal that saw dozens — possibly hundreds — of veterans die while waiting to access medical care, caught up in systemic fraud to hide poor performance at Veterans Administration facilities. In an interview with WMUR in New Hampshire, Hillary reversed her earlier denial that the problems weren’t “widespread,” but still says the big concern is protecting the VA rather than veterans:
Her trip to New Hampshire also comes amid new controversy over her comment that the recent scandal at the Veterans Administration had been overblown. In a one-on-one interview with News 9’s Josh McElveen, she elaborated, saying there are systemic problems at the agency that need to be fixed.
“But I am worried about some people trying to use the fact that we need to make major reforms as a justification for dismantling the VA, and I think my comments were really more directed at that,” Clinton said.
Yeah, well, priorities. Let’s make sure we’re protecting the corrupt bureaucracy before the veterans, right? Hillary’s answer is still nonsense demagoguery anyway, since none of the reforms have called for “dismantling the VA.” Even the most conservative approach, from Concerned Veterans of America, envisions private insurance to cover routine care managed through the VA, with the specialists in the facilities remaining to offer the care at which they excel — service-related injuries and illnesses.
Her campaign team pivoted a little more effectively yesterday:
Clinton’s campaign on Tuesday backed away from the candidate’s claim that issues at the VA were not “widespread.”
Brian Fallon, Clinton’s press secretary, acknowledged to CNN wait times and other mismanagement of care by the Department of Veterans Affairs were indeed “systemic” and that Clinton will roll out her plan to reform the VA in November.
“Even now, too many of our veterans are still waiting an unacceptably long time to see a doctor, or to process disability claims and appeals,” Fallon said in a statement to CNN.
Fallon said that when Clinton is president she “will work to further reform the VA to make sure it truly works for our veterans, and will demand accountability and performance from VA leadership.”
Nothing says accountability like defending the bureaucracy against reform!
In my column today for The Fiscal Times, I argue that this strange flip-flop speaks volumes about Hillary Clinton’s values, and the only authenticity that remains constant:
The attempt to paint a picture of victimhood for Clinton backfired utterly. Both Democrats and Republicans publicly denounced Clinton’s efforts to minimize the fraud, which cost dozens of veterans their lives. McCain called them “disgraceful” and demanded an apology. Not only did that distract from her momentary triumph, it torpedoed her earlier claim of victimhood as well.
Days later, however, Clinton suddenly became the Stalwart of Defrauded Veterans. Wednesday morning, her campaign’s press secretary claims Clinton’s remarks had been “misinterpreted.” Brian Fallon also announced that Clinton had developed a plan for systemic reform of the Veterans Administration and would roll it out in November. “Even now, too many of our veterans are still waiting an unacceptably long time to see a doctor, or to process disability claims and appeals,” Fallon told CNN.
The VA itself found that 40 veterans died in the Phoenix area alone while waiting for months to get medical treatment. A more recent report suggests that the reforms of the existing system have not improved matters as 8,000 vets have waiting for 90 days or more just to get an appointment at the Phoenix VA. Yet the only interest Clinton took in this scandal – other than to dismiss it as partisan politics – is when it dented her own prospects for election. Suddenly, rather than singing hosannas about the love veterans have for the VA, Clinton wants to take charge with a reform of her own.
Clinton is only a victim of her own thirst for power at all costs. She lied about her e-mail server in order to thwart legitimate oversight of her work at the State Department, and she lied about the VA scandal to score cheap points on her Republican opponents at the expense of veterans. McCain castigated Clinton for her “blind ambition” as the basis of her strange comments on the VA, but her ambition is all that truly defines her. There is no other authenticity to be found in Hillary Clinton, and this strange episode makes that perfectly clear.