Notes from the Kakistocracy: Ronny Jackson nomination evidence of deeper problems

Quite possibly the worst candidate to run the Veterans Administration:

During an overseas trip in 2015, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, was intoxicated and banged on the hotel room door of a female employee, according to four sources familiar with the allegation. The incident became so noisy, one source familiar with the allegation told CNN, that the Secret Service stopped him out of concern that he would wake then-President Barack Obama.

Two sources who previously worked in the White House Medical Unit described the same incident, with one former staffer telling CNN that it was "definitely inappropriate, in the middle of the night," and that it made the woman uncomfortable. At the time, the incident was reported up the chain of command, and it is one of multiple drunken episodes involving Jackson on overseas trips, according to a source familiar.

Those two paragraphs highlight three major problems with the military, two of which make Jackson supremely unqualified to run the VA. Because there is always a victim, the 1st problem is sexual harassment and assault. Decades of efforts to curb this have mostly failed, and Jackson is a prime example why. When junior officers see (and hear about) a Rear Admiral pulling this crap, they know the good old boy's club is still alive and well. This makes the problem "perpetual," meaning it will likely never stop, unless drastic measures are taken. The 2nd problem is substance abuse in the ranks. This is another problem that is not new, but seventeen years of sustained hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq have supercharged it, and the vast majority of the record-breaking number of veteran suicides can be chalked up in the substance abuse column. The last thing we need is an alcoholic at the helm of the VA. The last problem exposed above is the military's inability to police its own ranks, once officers have achieved Field Grade level. Jackson should have been cashiered years ago, but he's still partying on. Now that my critique of the military is done, let's look at the dysfunctional White House:

In fact, Trump nominees for major offices who didn’t face difficulties are almost rarer than those who did. Andy Puzder had to withdraw his nomination for labor secretary. Ben Carson and Betsy DeVos both showed a lack of familiarity with the work of the departments they were appointed to lead. Senators accused Jeff Sessions of misleading them. Wilbur Ross didn’t disclose all of his investments. Other nominees have struggled since; Tom Price was forced to resign as secretary of health and human services. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is under fire for his travel plans.

One problem is that, as the Post reported in March, the Presidential Personnel Office, which looks into nominees’ pasts, isn’t fully staffed, and those who are working there are young, inexperienced, and have spotty resumes of their own.

The Jackson nomination so far shows the president failing doubly to learn his lesson from the previous problems with nominees: He hasn’t fixed the vetting office, and at the same time bypassed it in choosing Jackson. The whole thing is a self-inflicted wound for the Trump administration. Trump could have waited to fire Shulkin. He could have picked a successor through a standard process. Failing that, he could have vetted Jackson before announcing him. (Perhaps he feared that such a process would leak to the press. Perhaps his fear was well-founded.)

If the wound is self-inflicted, Jackson and the nation’s veterans are the sad collateral damage. Although Jackson is well-liked by most who have come in contact with him (the new allegations notwithstanding), there’s no indication that he has the experience or skills required to wrestle the VA. It’s an enormous, complicated beast, and politicians of both parties agree it’s in dire need of reform, though they disagree on what shape that reform should take.

Even if that personnel office was properly staffed and on the ball, I'm not sure how much difference it would make. Trump's narcissism runs so deep he simply doesn't trust anybody he doesn't already know, or somebody who has not come across his short-range radar as an "impressive specimen." Which likely stems from his egotistical belief that he knows everything, and if he hasn't heard of somebody already, they must not be very capable.

So we can expect more Ronny Jacksons going down the road, and increasingly fewer voices of reason guiding this mistake of ours.

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