In the wake of the resignation of embattled Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki (on a Friday, naturally), Republican lawmakers are sending out a flurry of statements. They all say essentially the same thing: It is good that Shinseki is gone, but this doesn’t begin to address the systemic problem at the VA.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) issued the broadest indictment of the Obama administration so far. Cantor’s statement, also published in Politico, read in part:
This morning, the question many in and outside Washington have been asking for days was answered. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned. But many more questions remain to be answered. Who else at the VA should be fired? How are we determining who they are and what actions are being taken? Who is replacing them? How are we fixing what is systemically broken? And, most important of all, are we best serving our nation’s veterans?
He then blasted the Senate Democrats:
Last week, in a welcome display of bipartisanship, the House passed a two-page bill that simply gave the VA secretary broader authority to dismiss senior executives who were not performing. It was that simple. One hundred ninety Democrats joined 228 Republicans to pass the bill and send it swiftly to the Senate. And then the Senate delayed it, as they have done with many other bipartisan measures sent their way.
Senior Democratic lawmakers said they needed more time to review the two pages of text. Later we learned that Senate Democrats wanted to redraft the bill in order to include more protections for the bureaucrats who may be fired. Who is the bigger priority in the U.S. Senate—veterans or underperforming bureaucrats?
But he was just warming up. These words were the most sweeping and most penetrating:
Time after time, department after department, President Obama has proven detached from the failings within his administration—from Health and Human Services to State to Justice to Energy to the IRS to the Environmental Protection Agency and now to the VA. The fact that incompetent management has real-world effects on our nation’s working middle class families, our veterans and the businesses that hope to employ them seems always to surprise the chief executive in charge. . . . Conservatives often argue that the government is too big to be managed effectively. It’s time we start prioritizing what our government must do, and then do it. Caring for our veterans is a sacred obligation, and it’s time we get it right.
In other words, Shinseki didn’t do his job, but the problem is the government bureaucracy; Obama hasn’t done his job, but the problem is the over-extension and unmanageable size of the federal government. Ironically, it took really rotten and passive Democratic executives – Shinseki and Obama — to demonstrate fully the fundamental flaws in the liberal welfare state. It helps to have a good manager at the helm, but even a good manager is going to have his hands full if he doesn’t undertake substantial reforms. (And it is fair to say Obama has had more than his share of incompetent Cabinet officials and poor internal communications. The leader does set the tone, for better or worse.)
That, is seems, should be the GOP’s mantra. Fire incompetent Democrats in order to undertake fundamental reforms. Democrats are far too invested in the status quo, the public employee unions and centralized government to do what needs to be done. Really, does anyone think Obama — or Hillary Clinton — is going to make the liberal welfare state less of a behemoth than the one they’ve spent their careers building and defending?