The “Candy Man” withdrew his nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs today after nearly two dozen current and former members of the White House medical team accused Ronny Jackson of promoting a toxic work environment, distributing unprescribed sleeping pills and opioids, drinking on the job and smashing a government car.
A right-on-cue President Trump raged against these “false accusations” designed to destroy “an incredible man.” Fake news. Fake news.
Trump also threatened to take down Montana’s Democratic Senator Jon Tester, who coordinated opposition to Jackson, for apparently putting care of America’s veterans over loyalty to him. “And I want to tell you, Jon Tester, I think this is going to cause him a lot of problems in his state,” hissed Trump on “Fox & Friends” today.
Much was written about Jackson’s lack of experience in managing a behemoth like the VA, the federal government’s second largest agency with a $200B budget, 370K employees, 145 hospitals, 1,200-plus outpatient sites and 9M veterans enrolled in its programs.
Rivers of ink and countless pixels were wasted on the White House’s perfunctory vetting of Rear Admiral Jackson.
The lack of experience and scant vetting is irrelevant in Trump World, where feeding the ego of the tweeter-in-chief is all that matters.
Jackson pleased the president by declaring after his physical that our less-than-svelte leader is in “very, very good” health with a shot of living to 200 if he decided to lay off a little on the cheeseburgers, cake and ice cream.
Another thing going for Jackson: he looks legit in his uniform and could play the part of VA Secretary.
There may have been a darker reason for nominating Jackson. Privatizing the VA is a goal among conservatives, such as the Koch Brothers, who fund a group called Concerned Veterans for America.
While CVA denies that it supports outright privatization, it does push for greater healthcare choices for vets, which some view as the first step in the road to going private.
An inept leader like Jackson could result in trouble for the VA and more support for privatization.
Trump says he already has selected a new nominee for the VA, someone with “political capability.”
That’s exactly the problem. The VA doesn’t need a savvy political operative in charge. It needs a strong manager.