Under withering criticism, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki told a Senate committee on Thursday that he was “mad as hell” about allegations of deadly waiting times and coverup at VA hospitals but he doesn’t plan to resign.
The retired Army general faced angry legislators and then aggressive journalists with a consistent message, arguing it was too soon to cast blame and vowing decisive action if an inspector general’s investigation finds proof that VA workers manipulated waiting lists to cover up long delays for veterans seeking health care.
Last month, CNN revealed that at least 40 veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, according to sources inside the hospital and a doctor who worked there. Many were placed on a secret waiting list, the sources said.
Of course, Shinskei is just echoing his boss and other members of the administration:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s declaration that she takes responsibility for the failure to secure our facilities and personnel in Libya — with no word on any actual consequence of this failure — is the most recent example. But the approach began from the very start of this administration.
* On Feb. 3, 2009, former Sen. Tom Daschle withdrew as President Obama’s nominee for Commerce secretary after it was revealed he’d failed to pay some taxes. “I think I screwed up,” Obama told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I take responsibility for it, and we’re going to make sure we fix it, so it doesn’t happen again.”
* After a loud public outcry, Obama said he “took responsibility” for the millions in bonuses paid to AIG executives as part of the bailout. Of course, the bonuses remained.
* Discussing the national debt in Virginia on Aug. 6, 2009, Obama said, “I don’t mind being responsible. I expect to be held responsible for these issues, because I’m the president.” We’ve added $4.4 trillion in new debt since he said those words.
* After ObamaCare passed, the president admitted he hadn’t kept his promises on how the legislation would be handled. He told congressional Republicans that most of the debate had been aired on TV — except for some of the talks close to the Senate vote. “That was a messy process,” Obama said. “I take responsibility.” But it was too late to change anything about the law at that point, obviously.
* Obama said he “took responsibility” for the 2010 midterm results . . . but there was little or no sign that he changed his governing approach, philosophy or policies in response to the lopsided results in favor of the Republicans that year.
* Finally, in summer 2011, the president admitted that he’d misjudged the severity of the economic difficulties facing the country when he came into office: “Even I did not realize the magnitude, because most economists didn’t realize the magnitude of the recession until fairly far into it,” Obama said. “I think people may not have been prepared for how long this was going to take, and why we were going to have to make some very difficult decisions and choices. I take responsibility for that.” But the policies and approach we’ve seen since that declaration of responsibility are the same as what we saw before it; nothing changed.
The new way to avoid taking responsibility is to tell the world you’re “taking responsibility.”