Ed covered the breaking news yesterday, as the compassionate Feeler in Chief accepted the resignation of embattled VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki with considerable regret. But even as I read Ed’s coverage of the breaking news, one point in particular stood out to me.
“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?
Yes.. whose fault was that, exactly? Ed’s comments brought into focus one of the key quotes from Obama’s remarks. (Emphasis mine)
Speaking after a meeting with Shinseki at the White House, Obama said Shinseki had offered him his resignation.
“With considerable regret, I accepted,” Obama said. “We don’t have time for distractions,” he added. “We need to fix the problem.”
More than anything, this reminded me of the opposite of the West Wing episode, “Here Today” when Toby, having been caught betraying the nation, comes to offer his resignation to the president.
TOBY: Sir, I’ve drawn up a letter of resignation.
BARTLET: What is that, the third one? Rip it up.
BARTLET: I can’t accept your resignation. I have to fire you. For cause.
The one thing that would have improved that scene is if Bartlet had said, “Your ass is fired.”
The President is not without fault in all of this mess because, much like a ship at sea, the Captain is always responsible if they slam into an iceberg whether he’s on the bridge at the time or not. But the direct line of fault lies with Shinseki. Not during his first few months in office, mind you, because you’ve got to let a guy (or gal) get their feet under the table before they can really dig in. But after this much time, the period of forgiveness for not finding and fixing obscene, major problems has long since passed. And if Barack Obama wanted to have any credibility in cleaning up this mess he would not only be actively working on a long term fix for the problem, but he would have taken a page from Bartlet’s book and refused this resignation. He would have fired him in a very public fashion, and well before this.
No, President Obama. You get no credit for this. You allowed yet another villain in this tragic play to slither off into retirement, much as you did with Lois Lerner. And if you only accept their resignation with regret, then that means you wish they were still there. And it only logically follows that if you accept them and wish they hadn’t left, then you accept the full responsibility for the actions of your minions. You didn’t have the spine to put the culpible up against the wall, so now you can stand there in their place. So for the VA scandal, you can – as the cops in The Wire were fond of saying – eat the whole meal yourself.