The decline and fall of Ronny Jackson

At least for the time being, it appears that the “scandalous” story of White House physician Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson is coming to something of an ignominious close. Following the release of Senator Jon Tester’s blistering memo alleging all manner of bad behavior, Jackson’s hopes of becoming the next chief of the Veterans Administration were dashed. (Perhaps for the best, given his lack of administrative experience in herding such a massive legion of dysfunctional cats.) Despite the fact that the Secret Service was unable to substantiate any of the claims made against him, leading to some calls for Tester’s resignation, the damage had clearly been done.

I think many of us simply assumed at that point that Jackson would go back to his old job, somewhat worse for the wear. But it turns out he’s not even going to have that opportunity. Jackson will not be returning as the White House physician and the doctor who replaced him during his brief interview for the VA position will keep the job. (Washington Post)

Ronny L. Jackson, the Navy rear admiral whom President Trump unsuccessfully nominated to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, will not return to his previous role as the president’s personal physician, a White House official said Sunday.

Jackson, who withdrew as Trump’s VA pick last week, will remain on the staff of the White House medical unit, the official added. Sean Conley, a Navy veteran who took over Jackson’s responsibilities after his nomination, will remain in the role as Trump’s personal doctor.

Jackson, a former combat physician who faced almost immediate criticism that he was not qualified to oversee VA, withdrew his nomination Thursday after the office of Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) released allegations against Jackson that he drank on the job, overprescribed medication and presided over a toxic work environment.

This may require some reading of the tea leaves to sort out unless we get a more detailed answer from the White House in the days to come. Politico originally broke the story of Jackson’s demotion but offered zero details as to how that decision was reached. So who made the call and what was the basis for it? President Trump was still praising Jackson in a grand fashion on Friday during Angela Merkel’s visit, so it would be curious if this was the President’s call.

This is, in some ways, the most unsatisfying result imaginable. There are basically two possible scenarios here. Either the allegations raised by Tester are true (or at least mostly true) or it was a smear job built out of greatly exaggerated, distorted accusations meant to tank another of Trump’s nominees. If it’s the former, then why would Jackson still be on the payroll as part of the White House medical unit? Shouldn’t someone that out of control and potentially guilty of abusing his medical license be shipped back to the fleet or even fully discharged?

But if the allegations are false and he’s still a loyal Navy man meeting all the requisite qualifications, why not at least give him his old (and considerably prestigious) job back? If Jackson is innocent of the charges, isn’t it bad enough that he was forced out of consideration for a cabinet position under such circumstances with his professional reputation in tatters? It seems that he should at least be returned to his old job as a consolation prize if nothing else.

As far as I’m concerned, unless and until somebody can bring up considerably more substantial proof supporting Tester’s allegations, the burden of proof falls on the accusers and Jackson is innocent until proven guilty. His defenders, including the President, are producing reports from the Secret Service which call the allegations into doubt. Both Tester and the media are relying on anonymous sources with no documention to back up the claims. The fact that Jackson is still seemingly being punished over charges which have yet to be proven is disgraceful.