Ronny Jackson and the Trump cult of incompetence

U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, M.D., sits with Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Veteran's Affairs Committee, before their meeting on Capitol Hill, Monday, April 16, 2018 in Washington.

U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, M.D., sits with Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Veteran's Affairs Committee, before their meeting on Capitol Hill, Monday, April 16, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Ronny is on the rocks. Gee, What a surprise.

This is what happens when a manifestly incompetent “president” hastily taps a manifestly unqualified nominee to run one of the largest and most important federal agencies. What an insult to the nation’s nine million military veterans that Trump would choose, as VA chief, a guy whose main credential was praising Trump’s body. And how pathetically predictable it is that Ronny Jackson’s nomination has blown up in Trump’s face.

It was bad enough that Trump had convinced himself that his White House physician, having managed a staff of two dozen employees, was somehow a big beautiful choice to lead a department with 360,000 employees and an annual budget of $180 billion. White House aides and Senate Republicans were already horrified about that; they didn’t believe Jackson was qualified just because he’d gone on TV and hailed Trump as an awesome specimen in terms typically used by cult followers.

But the situation is way worse now that more than 20 people have surfaced with serious allegations about Jackson’s track record – excessive drinking on the job (like banging drunkenly on a female employee’s hotel door in the middle of the night), fostering a hostile work environment, and over-prescribing medications. And it’s all Trump’s fault, because neither he nor his understaffed, incompetent Presidential Personnel Office did even a minimum of cursory vetting.

This is what we’ve come to expect from this joke of a regime that so often saddles itself with joke nominees – like the prospective federal judge who had never tried a case, the prospective judge who said that transgender people are proof that “Satan’s plan is working,” the prospective Army secretary who’d made loony remarks about gays, Muslims, and evolution, the prospective Labor secretary who had questionable labor practices at his restaurants, the prospective drug czar who, as a congressman, had protected pharmaceutical firms and crippled the feds’ efforts to fight the opioid epidemic…the list goes on.

Millions of voters somehow believed that Trump would “run government like a business.” The implication was that the mess of governance would be cleaned up by the efficiencies of the private sector. But what we know now (and what Trump’s voters would have discovered 2016 had they spent five minutes scrutinizing his chaotic business history) is that any CEO with such inept vetting practices would’ve already been thrown onto the street.

The rot starts at the top, but Trump has set the tone for the Presidential Personnel Office, which has become a notorious den of dysfunction. Its current staff is roughly one-third the size of Obama’s staff, and most of them are ex-Trump campaign workers who’ve never vetted anyone before. Heck, they don’t seem to have been well-vetted, either. According to the free and independent press, “two office leaders have spotty records themselves: a college dropout with arrests for drunken driving and bad checks, and a Marine Corps reservist with arrests for assault, disorderly conduct, fleeing an officer and underage drinking.”

Even if a normal administration had somehow wanted to tap Ronny Jackson to lead the VA, it would’ve conducted a thorough background check and discovered that more than 20 people had serious qualms about Jackson’s behavior on the job. Then it would’ve alerted key Senate Republicans ahead of time, to at least review the evidence and coordinate a nomination strategy. But none of that happened. Senate Republicans were totally blindsided – and now, for good measure, Trump is insulting them.

First he nominates a guy who he likes just because the guy hailed him as a physical specimen on TV. Then, as the nomination blows up, he signals yesterday that maybe Jackson should decide on his own to withdraw his name, because “I don’t want to put a man through a process like this that is too ugly and too disgusting…to be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren’t thinking nicely about our country.”

What Trump views as “ugly” and “disgusting” is actually the process called oversight. It’s one of the Senate’s key constitutional tasks. And those abusing “politicians” are actually the Veterans Affairs Committee members who must now do the vetting that Trump failed to do – mopping up his latest mess, as it were. Their job is indeed to be “thinking nicely about our country” by ensuring that the VA is led by someone sufficiently qualified. As the committee’s top Republican and top Democrat told Trump in a letter yesterday, “We take seriously our constitutional duty to thoroughly and carefully vet each nominee…We will continue to look into these serious allegations.”

So there we have it. Another week, another Trump implosion, another ill-vetted nominee hanging by a thread. It’s clear that the good doctor failed to examine Trump from the neck up.

Although had he done so, he undoubtedly would’ve decreed that the Leader’s IQ was the highest in the history of the human genes.

 

 

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