VA Nominee Burned by Witch Hunt? Sure Looks That Way

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson's nomination to assume control of the VA didn't last long.

Jordan Candler · Apr. 26, 2018

Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson’s nomination to assume control of the Department of Veterans Affairs didn’t last long. The Washington Post reports that the veteran White House physician “withdrew from consideration Thursday amid mushrooming allegations of professional misconduct that raised questions about the White House vetting process.” These allegations, it’s important to note, were nonexistent during his 12-year tenure leading up to his selection to lead the VA.

Jackson hammered this point in a statement: “The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated. If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years.” Even CNN’s Jake Tapper — admittedly one of the network’s more levelheaded newsmen — remains skeptical. He wondered, “Big questions remain: Are the charges accurate? If so how did he survive the Obama/Trump years until now? If not how and why did these allegations happen?” Not only survived but received praise as a “tremendous asset” from Barack Obama.

That’s not to say that the allegations don’t warrant concerns. The list of improprieties “include that Jackson had wrecked a government vehicle after getting drunk at a Secret Service going-away party,” according to the Post. He’s also accused of “writing himself prescriptions and contributing to a hostile work environment with ‘a constant fear of reprisal.” Jackson reportedly also “drank while traveling with the president,” who at the time was Obama.

However, the allegations are just that — allegations — and were sought out by Democrat Sen. Jon Tester (MT), who used a revealing phrase when reporting on his findings on CNN. Tester said, “Our vetting is not through yet. We still have more information to gather. But if this turns out to be solidly factual, then we’ve got a big, big problem with Admiral Jackson [emphasis added].”

As The Wall Street Journal’s James Freeman ponders, “Is it too much to ask senators to avoid going on television and accusing people of being drunken drug peddlers without knowing if the allegations are true?” When it’s a Republican president in control, the answer is an emphatic “Yes.”

More importantly, Freeman notes that if the allegations against Jackson have merit, “they suggest that federal background checks, White House personnel management and bipartisan presidential judgment are all so flawed that this country has far bigger problems than Ronny Jackson.” Maybe Democrats are angered that Jackson isn’t a political animal like past VA secretaries. Or maybe they’re furious that, as The Washington Post reminds us, Jackson gave “a fawning assessment of Trump’s health” in January. Had he declared Trump senile or deranged, Democrats would be unanimously in favor of his nomination.

Whatever the reason, it’s extremely difficult to see this uproar as anything but politically motivated. This is a peculiar and bewildering situation all around, so expect to hear more about it in the days ahead. In the meantime, our veterans could have benefited from Jackson’s experience. As columnist Marc Thiessen writes, “No other nominee to run VA has seen the plight of our wounded warriors in the war on terrorism up close like he has. Jackson understands what our vets went through on the battlefield, because he was on the battlefield with them. He understands their mental and physical wounds, because he has treated them.” Whoever he may be, Trump’s next nominee needs to recognize the difficulties, like Jackson did, of a reality that only our veterans are capable of understanding.


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