The VA Scandal Is a Crisis of Leadership

As Calls for his Resignation Increase, VA Director Eric Shinseki Vows to Stay on the Job

The Veterans Administration scandal involves charges of manipulation and falsification of medical waiting lists and systemwide rigging to hide delayed or inadequate treatment, which may have caused the deaths of some of those waiting for care. There are whistle-blowers, allegations of local coverups, and the possibility of criminal charges. Also becoming clearer are two motives for those involved in what appears to have been a racket: their compensation and their career trajectories.

This scandal won’t go away as others have, because all America is united in this thought: We care about our military veterans. We’ve asked a great deal of them, and they have a right to expect a great deal from us. Also, everyone in America knows what it’s like to go to a bureaucracy when you’re in need and get jerked around and ignored.

The scandal also prompts this thought: Barack Obama is killing the reputation of government. He is killing the thing he loves through insufficient oversight. He doesn’t do the plodding, unshowy, unromantic work of making government work. In the old political formulation, he’s a show horse, not a workhorse.

The president’s inattention to management—his laxity, his failure to understand that government isn’t magic, that it must be forced into working, clubbed each day into achieving adequacy, and watched like a hawk—is undercutting what he stands for, the progressive project that says the federal government is the primary answer to the nation’s ills.

He is allowing the federal government to become what any large institution will become unless you stop it: a slobocracy.

The president and his staff don’t seem to know that by the time things start bubbling up from the agencies and reach the Oval Office the scandal has already happened, even if it’s not in the press yet, and the answer isn’t to prepare proactive spin but to clean up the mess, end the scandal, fire people—a lot of people—establish accountability, change bad practices, and make the agency work again.

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Source: Wall Street Journal | Peggy Noonan

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