But wherever Jackson winds up working, the need to know just what happened is abundantly clear.
Jackson’s failed nomination has been turned into a political football, with Trump using it to attack the person behind the release of the allegations, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). If Tester did do something wrong, then the voters who are tasked with deciding his reelection fate in November should know about it. If he didn’t, it gives lie to Trump’s contention that these were baseless allegations.
It bears noting that there is no reason to believe Tester did anything besides relay the anonymous accounts of 23 people who worked with Jackson — many of whom, according to Tester, were active military. The allegations include Jackson passing out pills like the “Candyman,” getting drunk on the job and generally being an awful colleague. Some of it has been substantiated, including reportedly by Vice President Pence's doctor, who raised concerns about Jackson's conduct last fall, according to CNN's Manu Raju.
But there are curiosities involved. It seems odd that someone with a reputation as solid as Jackson’s was suddenly being accused of such horrible things. And there has been nothing found to substantiate the anonymous claim that Jackson “got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle” at a Secret Service going-away party.
On the flip side, it is conspicuous that no Republican senators seem to be standing up for Jackson like Trump did. Tester’s counterpart on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), hasn’t cried foul about Tester’s actions. In fact, his office said Saturday that he “doesn’t have a problem with how things were handled.” If this were really about Democratic obstruction, as Trump claims, you would think some fellow Republicans would be pretty heated, too. But either they think the allegations have merit, or they are just as glad to get a pass on an underqualified nominee they never loved in the first place.
Axios’s Jonathan Swan is among those who have argued that Tester’s allegations against Jackson did not get as thorough a vetting as they should have.
“I’m not just going to go, ‘Well, it’s alleged, and I am hearing that this guy did all of these terrible things, and x, y, and z,’ because I have no idea if it’s true or not,” Swan told Fox News last week. “And clearly neither does Jon Tester. Surely, this is a problem.”
If this was a rush to judgment based upon flimsy allegations, then we surely need to know that. Jackson could have fought the allegations and pressed forward with his nomination, but he elected not to do that. Which means we can’t count on a thorough airing.
The Defense Department hasn’t committed to an investigation either, as The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe has reported, despite this involving a Navy rear admiral who is up for a promotion. Jackson leaving his high-profile White House gig would sure make it easier to sweep this whole thing under the rug.
But that would be a mistake. If Jackson was doing some of these things in the White House, it would be a scandal. Even apart from that, our confidence in the political process is at stake.