D r. Ronny Jackson’s chances of becoming the next Veterans Affairs secretary were probably toast before he accepted defeat and withdrew his name from consideration today.
Although the allegations of problem-drinking, overprescribing narcotics and creating a hostile work environment torpedoed Jackson’s nomination, had those accusations not surfaced, there were fundamental issues with President Donald Trump’s choice: namely, that Jackson was unqualified for the job.
Jackson might be a fine physician, as evidenced by the fact he has served in that role now for three straight presidents, two Republicans and one Democrat. But he has had modest experience as an administrator.
Running the VA is all about administration. It is a huge bureaucracy, the second largest in the federal government, with 360,000 employees and a nearly $200 billion annual budget. That bureaucracy can be problematic, as evidenced by the slow service some VA hospitals have been delivering to veterans in recent years and a serious backlog of vacant positions in the agency.
But fixing the VA’s issues are not going to happen with an apprentice in charge. Not only did Democrats in Congress question Jackson’s qualifications for the job, but so did some Republicans and veterans organizations, too.
As the Jackson fiasco shows, Trump frequently has an odd and chaotic way of choosing cabinet members. They also don’t tend to last long, either because they clash with him, aren’t considered sufficiently loyal or they make inexcusably poor ethical judgments.
Jackson may feel he was abused by the confirmation process. He was set up for that abuse, though, by the president who so flippantly nominated Jackson for a job that the physician himself should have know was far above his pay grade.
Veterans groups today urged the White House to do a better job of vetting the next nominee. A good start would be reading the person’s resumé.