Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Swamp Draining Must Include VA, FBI

Swamp Draining Must Include VA, FBI
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 24, 2017

During the 2016 presidential campaign GOP candidate and ultimate winner Donald Trump oft-repeated he would “drain the swamp,” meaning he would rid Washington, DC of the dead weight, hangers-on, and generally useless bureaucrats taking up time, space, and taxpayer dollars.

Two of the swamp denizens needing liberating from their government homes are within the Department of Veterans Affairs and the FBI. President Trump’s nominee to head the VA, David Shulkin, should not be confirmed by the US Senate, and Trump should rescind the vote of confidence given FBI Director James Comey and request his resignation.

Comey, 56, a Yonkers, NY native, earned his JD from the University of Chicago Law School and is a 2013 appointee of Barack Obama. Prior government experience includes his work as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, followed by serving as US Deputy Attorney General.

Comey demonstrated a level of incompetence in the manner in which he handled Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal and server investigation. Despite having enough evidence to call for the indictment of the former Democrat candidate for president, Comey presented reasons why he could, but then pivoted by giving her a pass. Comey claimed  such an indictment would derail the 2016 presidential election. It seems if someone is indictable, he or she should actually be indicted, regardless of its impact. Comey should go.

Shulkin, currently the VA’s Undersecretary of Health, is a 57-year-old Bala Cynwyd, PA native, and another Obama appointee since 2015, has a strong background in hospital administration as the chief executive of numerous hospital systems, including the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. The board certified internist earned his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania (since merged with Drexel University). Were he to garner Senate confirmation, Shulkin would become the first non-veteran to head the VA.

On paper, Shulkin seems to be an acceptable nominee for this cabinet post. However, he is mired deep in the swamp to the point where he is more of the problem than the solution. It’s not even his fault as much as he is simply a cog in an old wheel rife with such bureaucratic chaos that in Congressional hearings Shulkin provided false information on issues he should have been more aware.

Testifying before a Congressional committee regarding the continuing employment of criminals at the VA, Shulkin claimed the miscreants had been fired, when in reality, they had not. Shulkin did not know this, yet an aide, who did, had to inform Shulkin of the truth. Later on that same day, Shulkin informed the House members that a particular chief of staff who had been doling out controlled substances to friends had been relieved of her authoritative position. This time Shulkin was not misinformed, but he simply lied, as this VA employee was not only still on the job, but had been promoted to oversee quality control. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house.

It’s time to hear President Trump utter those words he made so famous – “You’re fired!”

While Washington, DC may have been built on a swamp, it need not continue to be filled with creatures from the black lagoon. Although I don’t have a replacement to recommend in Comey’s stead, I would offer to President Trump the name of US Representative Tulsi Gabbard for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Gabbard, 35, is a native of American Samoa, currently representing Hawaii’s Second District. The Democrat is the first American Samoan and Hindu member of Congress and is serving in her second term after serving in the Hawaii state legislature, first elected at age 21, the youngest to serve in that body. Gabbard is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University with a BS in Business Administration.

In addition to her business degree, Gabbard is more than qualified to serve as the head of the VA due to her military and medical backgrounds as well. An Army veteran since 2004, Gabbard has earned the rank of Major. She served in an Iraqi combat zone in a field medical unit as a specialist for a 12 month tour of duty. She continues her military service in the Hawaii Army National Guard. In fact, Gabbard opted out of a reelection campaign to her Hawaii legislative seat, choosing instead to continue her then full time military service.

Although Gabbard is a social liberal, she has solid armed forces bona fides, and serves on both the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees. Gabbard previously opposed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia calling for the US to hold that country accountable for its overt and covert involvement in global terrorism. Gabbard also opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement that Trump opposed and withdrew from on January 24.

US Rep. Gabbard would be a breath of fresh air at the helm of the VA and President Trump would do well to appoint her – not because he could “check some boxes” due to her demographics, but because of her clearly desirable qualifications. She understands the needs of veterans, has a military, medical, and business background as well as a desire to not just serve, but accomplish.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

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