Leave it to Bernie Sanders to get it right.
Two Democrats, former national chairperson Howard Dean and former U.S Representative and Iraq War veteran Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, don't see it the same way. Appearing on MSNBC's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" (video at link) to discuss the heat on General Eric Shinseki for the crisis at the Veterans Administration, the former Vermont governor and presidential aspirant told ongoing guest host Ari Melber "I don't think he has done anything wrong but he needs to clean house" (no sexism from Dean, calling on a man to clean his house).
A visibly angry Patrick Murphy- who appears to have been angry each time he has appeared on MSNBC to discuss the scandal- remarked "He's pissed. He has now fired seven people." Shinseki, Murphy commented, "needs to get in front, as the governor said, out in front of the American people, and let them know... that he's ticked off and unbelievably pissed about this IG report- that he ordered- that shows this is a system issue."
Melber followed by noting Senator Sanders (I-VT.), chairperson of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, has stated "...At a time when the VA has seen a huge increase in its patient load in recent years, I urge the Secretary to review whether the Department's goal for seeing patients within 14 days is realistic under its current budget." Melber suggested the standard may have prompted employees to falsify records and asked his guest to respond. Murphy credited Shinseki with the 14 day standard, maintained that 26 hospitals have "cooked the books," and applauded Shinseki for "taking quick action (though) he needs to do more."
No. The standard set by the Secretary has not prevented the problem but caused it. (Rachel Maddow blames Congress- which deserves considerable blame- below.) Thursday evening, MSNBC's Chris Hayes cited the "mismatch" between the needs of veterans, which have increased dramatically, and the resources available to the V.A. Shinseki could have responded with the courage (and foresight) he displayed when- inviting misguided condemnation from Republicans- he told Congress a month before the USA invaded Iraq in 2003 "several hundred thousand troops" would be needed to secure the country. Instead, he passed the buck downward- actually, punched downward- setting a standard he knew, or should have known, was unrealistic. He pleased his superior(s) while placing his subordinates in an untenable position.
The GOP, as usual, is on the wrong track. Politico reports "to Republicans, Shinseki is fleeting- a figurehead who could be gone any moment. To push for his resignation lets Obama off the hook, they say." Subjecting this issue as they have so many others the past five+ years to the "is it good or bad for Obama?" test clearly is not serving the country. But as Senator Sanders seems to understand, the root of the immediate problem- falsifying records- lies in the requirement that new patients be seen within 14 days. It was General Eric Shinseki who established that requirement, and it's General Shinseki who, despite a noble record, should be relieved of duty.
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