On Friday the president finally dropped the ax on VA Secretary General Eric Shinseki, announcing that he had ‘agreed to accept Shinseki’s resignation’ after they mutually agreed that Shinseki had become a “distraction.” We all know how those kinds of departures really go…
Then just hours after Shinseki ‘quit’, Press Secretary Jay Carney and President Obama hugged as the President announced Carney’s resignation as well.
The day before the double resignations of the head of the VA, Eric Shinseki and the White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, ABC’s Jon Karl grilled Jay Carney over President Obama’s confidence in Eric Shinseki. Less than 24 hours later, the press secretary and Veterans Administration head had both quit. It is extremely rare for two such high ranking members of the cabinet to resign on the same day… and it hasn’t been long since the HHS Secretary Sibelius resigned and exited.
During Thursday’s back-and-forth, Karl pressed, “But does the President right now have confidence in Sec. Shinseki, yes or no? It’s a very simple yes or no question. You told us last week he did have confidence, does he have confidence now?” (See video below.)
Carney dodged and weaved, finally responding, “Jon, the President addressed this question from the podium.” The journalist pointed out, “But he wasn’t asked directly if he had confidence in him.” The now-ex-press secretary dismissed this as “word play.” Karl continued to push, insisting, “It’s a basic question. It’s not wordplay. Its a central question: Does he have confidence in a member of his cabinet?”
Full transcript Jon Karl’s May 29 press briefing question:
JON KARL: Does the president have confidence in Secretary Shinseki?
JAY CARNEY: Jon, the president addressed this question from the podium.
KARL: He wasn’t asked directly does he have ‘confidence’ in Sec. Shinseki.
CARNEY: The president believes that — and is confident that Sec. Shinseki has served his nation admirably, heroically as a soldier, as a general, and that he has accomplished some very important things as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and I listed them, but they include extending education benefits, reducing veteran homelessness, and reducing the size of the backlog for disability claims while expanding vastly the number of veterans who can make a claim.
KARL: But does the president right now have confidence in Sec. Shinseki, yes or no? It’s a very simple yes or no question. You told us last week he did have confidence, does he have confidence now?
CARNEY: What I would point you to is what the president said–
KARL: But he wasn’t asked directly if he was confident.
CARNEY: And I don’t have – I’m not going to improve upon his words. He talked about accountability.
KARL: But he wasn’t asked directly if he had confidence in him.
CARNEY: I understand that, the word play here. What I think is more important –
KARL: It’s a basic question. It’s not wordplay. Its a central question: Does he have confidence in a member of his cabinet?
CARNEY: On the issue you are referring to when it comes to the revelations that have come to light about Phoenix and other veterans health centers, the President was deeply troubled by what we saw in the interim report from the inspector general, and he awaits the preliminary report from Sec. Shinseki from the internal audit that the secretary is conducting.
Obviously he didn’t... Shinseki’s departure was certainly planned as a distraction to allow President Obama some cover, providing even members of his own party with a convenient scapegoat for another scandal the White House was deeply involved in. Ultimately their hope is that people will say, “Look, the President is doing something about it” and that the timing, as Obama trots off to Europe, will give the news cycle some time to settle out. Early comments from family members of Veterans who died because of lack of care don’t sound like they think this was enough and probably won’t forget, ever, but definitely not before the president returns from Europe… nor before the 2014 or 2016 elections. Lets hope not!
Shinseki will be replaced by Sloan Gibson… until a permanent replacement for Shinseki is found and confirmed by the Senate. In view of President Obama’s constant efforts to cut back and derail VA benefits from the beginning of his presidency, the new nominee and process ought to be interesting.
And now we are told that Carney had already given notice in April that he planned to leave during the summer:
“In April, Jay came to me in the Oval Office and said that he was thinking of moving on, and I was not thrilled, to say the least,” he said. “But Jay has had to wrestle with this decision for quite some time,” said President Obama as he referred to Carney as one of his closest advisers and friends at the White House, as he gave him a hug. At least Shinseki didn’t have to suffer the humiliation of a public hug!
Actually, unlike Shinseki, I think that ‘Lyin’ Jay’ actually did resign. At this point, even he was probably having trouble looking at himself in the mirror every morning, as even his supporters on the press corps were shunning him like the hideous jackal he has become. But, that image will no doubt fade and Carney will no doubt turn up as a talking head on MSNBC or one of the alphabet networks.
Carney’s deputy Josh Earnest will take over the job as the president’s press secretary. Some people really will do anything for money.
Many are wondering if there is a connection between Thursday’s media event and the resignations, and are asking why the President did not out-right fire Shinseki. Perhaps the following gives us a little insight?
Video: Democrat Consultant: Obama Couldn’t Fire Shinseki Directly Because It Would Give The GOP Political Flesh and Power – Really? This is What They Are Worried About?
BY: Washington Free Beacon Staff – May 29, 2014 5:22 pm:
Democratic campaign consultant Bill Burton said President Obama cannot fire Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki because it will hand Republicans political “flesh” Thursday afternoon on CNN.
The Lead host Jake Tapper asked Burton if President Obama’s aversion to the “Washington game” is inhibiting the president from actually seeing a problem with Shinseki’s leadership and removing the VA Secretary.
Burton claimed President Obama has been “dedicated” since his days in the United States Senate to fixing the problems at the VA. Burton did not explain why Obama has not addressed the systemic issues at the agency up to this point.
Additionally, the Democratic consultant said the president cannot fire Shinseki even if it were warranted because Senate Republicans would “extract their pound of flesh” during the confirmation hearings for a new V.A. Secretary.
“Just imagine, Jake, it’s not like Senate Republicans are going to let you put some new head of the V.A. in to deal with the problem. They are going to, you know, extract their pound of flesh and make it as difficult as possible for him,” he said.
In other words, Burton seems to think if the removal of Shinseki reflects poorly on the president’s executive leadership, the administration’s hands are tied.
Why, in Burton’s estimation, President Obama should elect to look better politically at the expense of removing an official whose agency has potentially killed veterans is not entirely clear.