Jay Carney’s smarmy mendacity is wearing on the White House press corps to the degree that one or two of them are threatening to commit journalism instead of staying in the stenographer’s pool.
Via ABC’s Jon Karl, White House Distorts American Legion Position on Veterans Controversy:
At the White House briefing today, Press Secretary Jay Carney repeatedly suggested the American Legion had praised the Department of Veterans Affairs for the resignation Friday of top VA health official Dr. Robert Petzel.
It turns out, however, the American legion had issued a statement dismissing the resignation as “business as usual.”
Last week we reported on the sham firing of Veterans Affairs Undersecretary of Health, Robert Petzel. It was a sham because Petzel was already scheduled to retire and his replacement had been announced by the White House on May 1. The White House attempted to portray a scheduled retirement as a dismissal as part of its rapidly failing damage control efforts.
From the White House transcript
KARL What about this announcement on Friday that the Under Secretary of Health over at Veterans Affairs, Robert Petzel, was leaving that department? It’s been reported that he was already scheduled to leave the VA later on in the year, so how is that really any kind of accountability over at the VA? And might we see other officials who were in charge in this area of overseeing veterans care and these wait times, might we see other officials leave that Department?
MR. CARNEY: On the issue of Dr. Petzel, I would hope that you had noted that the top official in charge — he was — of the veterans health system was requested to resign by the American Legion, and he did so the day that — one day after his Senate testimony. The American Legion said that the group looks at Petzel’s resignation as a “step towards addressing the leadership problem at the VA.” So I think that undercuts the assertion that that is not a meaningful development.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki announced May 16 that he has accepted the resignation of his under secretary for health, Dr. Robert Petzel.
Responding to the news, American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said, “This move by VA is not a corrective action, but a continuation of business as usual. Dr. Petzel was already scheduled to retire this year, so his resignation now really won’t make that much of a difference.
“Meanwhile, Secretary Shinseki and Under Secretary Hickey remain on the job. They are both part of VA’s leadership problem, and we want them to resign as soon as possible. This isn’t personal. VA needs a fundamental shift in leadership if it is to defeat its systemic lack of accountability.”
Dellinger called on Shinseki, Petzel and Hickey to resign at a May 5 press conference at the Legion’s national headquarters in Indianapolis.
As you see, the Legion did not say this was a “step towards addressing the leadership problem at the VA,” but rather a continuation of business as usual.
Perhaps still stinging from his public punking by Jay Carney over Benghazi, Karl dug in:
KARL So, Jay, are you suggesting, regarding Dr. Petzel, that he was forced to resign because of this controversy?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to previous statements made by Secretary Shinseki and others, and leave it at that. What I would say is that he did resign. He was identified as somebody that the American Legion thought should be held responsible, and I would point you to what the American Legion said.
Having said that, I do believe it is important, as I noted earlier, that this investigation and this review be allowed to be conducted and completed, and for us to make judgments about exactly what did happen in Phoenix and elsewhere and what didn’t, and what the causes of what happened were and who’s responsible for what happened, and whether or not anybody should be held accountable for what happened.
Q But, Jay, how can you suggest that his resignation comes as accountability when the VA put out a press release on September 20th saying he was leaving? That’s almost eight months ago.
MR. CARNEY: Jon, I would refer you to what the American —
Q In fact, his predecessor was nominated two weeks ago. I don’t care what the American Legion has to say. I’m asking what you have to say.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would point you to the American Legion, which obviously has deep interest in this matter and has been reported on significantly by your network and others in terms of what they’ve said about this issue, and note that they look at Dr. Petzel’s resignation as “a step towards addressing the leadership problem at the VA.” I’ll leave it at that. Those are the words that they said.
Notice that Carney first implies Petzel was fired at the behest of the American Legion and when confronted by the timeline lamely ends up telling Karl to make his own word choices in regards to calling it a firing.
The VA is an utter pesthole. It always has been. The institutional culture indicates it will continue to be so. It exists less to provide medical services to veterans, which are a rapidly decreasing group as the alumni of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam die off. It exists to package military veterans as yet another class of benefit recipients beholden to the government. Better health care could be provided by a voucher or individual account system that permitted veterans to find health care providers near their home and have greater autonomy over their own care. This, however, runs contrary to the New Deal and Great Society ethos of a powerful and paternal government running your life.
I suspect Shinseki will soon resign. The man has done nothing in five years to fix whatever problems they are now blaming on the Bush Administration. That alone is indictment enough. That combined with the damage he did as Army Chief of Staff warrants the death penalty. But the next guy will not be different. The institution itself is beyond reform and the best course of action for our veterans would be to start from scratch.