Yes, Eric Shinseki had to go, and he probably knew it himself once the horror stories surfaced. As the retired four-star general learned at West Point, the commander is ultimately responsible. While the Veterans Administration has been a managerial bleeding sore for years, the chaos and perhaps criminality at subordinate echelons of the VA on Shinseki’s watch made his survival impossible.
But let’s not forget that Ric Shinseki is not just a highly decorated commander and wounded warrior, losing part of his foot in Vietnam and clawing his way back onto active duty against the wishes of Army brass. He’s a truth-teller of the first rank — and that display of character so enraged the George W. Bush defense team that he encountered some of the shabbiest treatment an officer and a gentleman has ever encountered during my 46 years serving in and hanging around the Pentagon.
It didn’t help his case with the Bushies that Bill Clinton had appointed him Army chief of staff. Moreover, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who didn’t enjoy being challenged, quickly took a dislike to Shinseki after several policy and strategy disagreements.
Rummy was so intent on punishing Shinseki out, in fact, that he directed one of his flack-shop acolytes to leak word of his replacement to The New York Times — 15 months before Shinseki’s four-year term was up.
This had the instant effect of rendering Shinseki a lame duck within the E-ring, the Pentagon’s power corridor. It was cheesy, petty, shameful, and totally unwarranted behavior. The Rumsfeld crowd loved themselves for it.
When Shinseki retired in June of 2003, Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz were notable by their absence at his Fort Myer send-off — another gratuitous, small-bore move.
Even then, they were still fuming over Shinseki’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee four months earlier. Asked how many troops would be needed to keep the peace in a postwar Iraq, Shinseki predicted “several hundred thousand.”
Rumsfeld went ballistic; that was far more than the low-ball figure he’d been using on Capitol Hill. Wolfowitz blasted Shinseki publicly, calling his estimate “wildly off the mark.” The sub-rosa sniping escalated from there; suddenly it wasn’t hard at all for reporters to find someone in the Rumsfeld orbit eager to dump all over the Army chief.
Of course, history has shown that Shinseki’s principled testimony about Iraq was on the mark, and the Rumsfeld/Cheney/Wolfowitz war hawks were wrong.
Still, Obama was right to insist on Shinseki’s resignation from the VA. But he was also right to salute Shinseki as “a very good man; I don’t just mean he’s an accomplished man “¦ [and] an outstanding soldier. He’s a good person who’s done exemplary work on our behalf.”
In the political game, there’s often a difference between needing to go and deserving to go. Not for the first time in a storied career, Ric Shinseki deserved better.
What We're Following See More »
"A federal appeals court's decision that declared the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau an arm of the White House relies on a novel interpretation of the constitution's separation of powers clause that could have broader effects on how other regulators" like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
"According to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, the first national post-debate survey, 43 percent of registered voters said the Democratic candidate won, compared with 26 percent who opted for the Republican Party’s standard bearer. Her 6-point lead over Trump among likely voters is unchanged from our previous survey: Clinton still leads Trump 42 percent to 36 percent in the race for the White House, with Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson taking 9 percent of the vote."
Twitter bots, "automated social media accounts that interact with other users," accounted for a large part of the online discussion during the first presidential debate. Bots made up 22 percent of conversation about Hillary Clinton on the social media platform, and a whopping one third of Twitter conversation about Donald Trump.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the nonprofit that published the Panama Papers earlier this year, is being spun off from its parent organization, the Center for Public Integrity. According to a statement, "CPI’s Board of Directors has decided that enabling the ICIJ to chart its own course will help both journalistic teams build on the massive impact they have had as one organization."