What a whirlwind 24 hours over at The White House. We begin with reaction to the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and this piece from Esquire's Charles Pierce
This event became inevitable the moment that Shinseki sat down before the Veterans Affairs Committee of the United States Senate. [...] And thus ends the honorable career of a soldier who was correct about the lies behind the greatest policy disaster of our times, about the essential criminality of the people who launched the invasion of Iraq, but whose primary failures as an administrator were his inability to oversee the people in his department who were directly trying to cope with the flood of casualties that resulted from all of those soldiers that most of official Washington told Eric Shinseki they would never need to create a democratic paradise in Iraq. Irony is the rail on which Shinseki now has been ridden out of town. [...]
The New York Times:
The problem with the VA system right now is that, for an entire decade, we sent people into the meat grinder of a war the architects of which conducted completely off the books. They kept it off the books used to keep the federal budget, and they did all they could to keep it off the books of the nation's moral conscience as well. They lied and they cooked their estimates on everything far worse than did the likely criminals who fudged the documentation at the hospital in Phoenix. The whole country was awash in the moral equivalent of a Ponzi scheme, all glistening and shiny and bedecked in bunting. Meanwhile, the physical, financial, and moral cost of it all built up and built up until the scheme got bigger and more complicated and, ultimately, it became untenable. And now, the people who launched it in the first place are tut-tutting about what happened when the whole thing finally collapsed. [...] But, ultimately, Bernie Sanders is completely correct about it all. If you don't want to pay all the real costs of taking the nation to war, then don't take it to war at all. It is, after all, criminal naivete to be shocked by the inevitable.
The resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki from the Veterans Affairs Department was probably unavoidable, under the principle that a leader should accept full responsibility for a great scandal. But the department’s problem was not Mr. Shinseki. It has been broken for years. No one should expect his removal to be anything but the beginning of a much-needed process of change.
Time now to tune out the noise from the lawmakers who lately have been baying for Mr. Shinseki’s head. No doubt they will keep heaping abuse on President Obama, on the campaign trail, and at the hearings for whoever is nominated as Mr. Shinseki’s replacement. Empty posturing in support of troops and veterans is a staple of political life, and is far easier than actually helping veterans.
More on this and the day's other top stories below the fold.
Jacob Siegel at The Daily Beast takes an in-depth look into the controversy:
The VA’s problems didn’t start with Shinseki and they won’t be solved by his resignation—in fact, they may get worse. The secret waiting lists discovered in VA hospitals exploited a lack of oversight that made cheating easy and profitable. But beneath them there are underlying structural issues that will be even harder to fix.
As I wrote last week, it didn’t have to be this way. The VA didn’t learn about treatment delays and falsified schedules when the national press picked up the story last month. This is a problem the VA has known about for years. The same “scheduling schemes” that placed 1,700 veterans on secret waiting lists in Phoenix have been extensively documented since 2005 and no one, including Shinseki, yet explained why it took so long to act. [...]
As the calls for his resignation mounted, “embattled” became a go-to phrase to describe Shinseki. But that’s an odd term to apply to a decorated combat veteran who lost part of his foot in Vietnam. Shinseki is undoubtedly an honorable man, who sought to serve veterans after his 30 years of Army service. On some counts, he did very well. But the general’s aversion to publicity, which once seemed like a sign of dignity, became a way for the VA to evade it’s own accounting.
at The Nation agrees that the problem is systemic, pre-dating Shinseki's term, and that politicians need to take a closer look at the wars they launch which have overburdened the underfunded VA:
But over the coming weeks, the politicians that have been rushing to appear on camera along with the outlets eager to cover this story should focus on the bigger picture: the crisis facing returning veterans and the current inability of the federal government to help them. There are many reasons why this has happened. And at the heart of all this is yet another scandal, one that continues to echo through American politics over a decade after it began: the decision to commit, and keep, American troops involved in two messy ground wars with unclear goals and uncertain, at best, benefits.
Switching topics, yesterday also brought the resignation of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. Kia Makarechi
at Vanity Fair:
Carney’s resignation is as good a time as any to celebrate the outgoing press secretary’s appreciation of Guided by Voices. Just a few days ago, Carney introduced “the greatest rock band in the world” at a concert, and he has been known to mistakenly invoke the names of members of the band when trying to describe Senate leadership. And while the White House Press Corps is sometimes criticized for not taking an appropriately adversarial approach to covering the administration, the reporters who interact daily with Carney teased the secretary when he grew and eventually shaved his temporary beard, prompting Carney to acknowledge the “insufficiency of my effort” to grow facial hair.
Looking ahead, Tim McDonnell
at Mother Jones previews President Obama's much-anticipated carbon dioxide emissions plan:
On Monday, President Obama is set to unveil details of the cornerstone of his climate plan: Limits on carbon dioxide emissions from the nation's fleet of existing power plants. The rules are likely to be the biggest step toward the president's goal of cutting US greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020. The rules are already taking heat from the fossil fuel industry and Republicans in Congress, despite having the support of a majority of Americans. So what's all the hullabaloo about, exactly? Here's what you need to know: [...]
How big an effect will this have? It's impossible to say exactly without seeing the specific proposed limits; the New York Times is reporting the rules could require cuts in CO2 emissions of up to 20 percent. The middle range of projections from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a reduction of 544 million metric tons by 2020, equivalent to taking about 114 million cars off the road.