Obama’s May: Silent on VA Scandal; Speaks on Tourism, Leaky Pipes, Uruguay, Walmart Light Bulbs

by Jim Geraghty

News coverage of the scandal within the Department of Veterans Affairs broke a month ago — April 23. In the past month, President Obama has spoken publicly about the VA scandal once, a three-paragraph answer at a joint press conference with the president of the Philippines on April 28.

(The most recent story is not the first on serious problems at the VA; the Washington Examiner did spectacular reporting on VA backlogs, complicated bureaucracy, and allegations of cooking the books in its series, “Making America’s Heroes Wait” in February 2013.)

Since the story broke, Obama has spoken at great length on many other topics, some prominent and important, some not so much.

May 3, during the president’s weekly address: “In my State of the Union Address, I said that in this Year of Action, whenever I can act on my own to create jobs and expand opportunity for more Americans, I will.”

May 5, in a joint appearance with President Guelleh of Djibouti: “I had an opportunity to visit Djibouti when I was a senator, before I was elected president, and saw firsthand the importance of U.S. cooperation with Djibouti.”

May 5, appearing at a White House Cinco de Mayo party: “Today, on Cinco de Mayo, we celebrate our shared heritage, our shared history, our shared future. That’s not something to be afraid of — that’s something that we need to embrace. That’s what I’m going to be doing, not just today, but every day, to keep fighting for opportunity for all people and greater understanding between all nations.”

May 7, appearing at a DCCC fundraiser: “We believe in making sure that we’re investing in our infrastructure and putting people back to work, and investing in innovation and basic research that can unlock cures for things like Alzheimer’s; their budget takes us in the opposite direction. We believe in early childhood education to make sure that opportunity for all actually means something, that it’s not just a slogan; they say, no.”

May 8, appearing at a DCCC fundraiser: “In order for us to not simply play defense but actually go back on the offensive on behalf of the American people, on behalf of striving families all across this country, including right here in California, we’ve got to have folks like Nancy Pelosi guiding the debate.”

May 8, appearing at a DNC fundraiser: “[The Republicans] said no to increasing the minimum wage. They’ve said no to helping kids afford college. They even shut down the government and almost created another global financial catastrophe because they wanted to get their way.”

May 9, appearing at a Walmart: “I want to thank the folks at Walmart. And I know this looks like a typical Walmart, but it is different — and that’s why I’m here. A few years ago, you decided to put solar panels on the roof of the store. You replaced some traditional light bulbs with LEDs. You made refrigerator cases more efficient. And you even put in a charging station for electric vehicles. And all told, those upgrades created dozens of construction jobs and helped this store save money on its energy bills.”

May 12, in a joint appearance with Uruguayan president Mujica: “The United States and Uruguay has [sic] developed a strong relationship across a wide spectrum of issues. Our trade and commerce has expanded significantly. On the international front, we are very grateful that Uruguay is one of the largest contributors to U.N. peacekeeping in places like Haiti and Africa, and has been responsible for helping to facilitate peace in some very volatile regions.”

May 13, discussing immigration reform: “It’s estimated that over 80 percent of the folks who are here on an undocumented basis have been here 10 years or longer. These are folks who are woven into the fabrics of our communities. Their kids are going to school with our kids. Most of them are not making trouble; most of them are not causing crimes. And yet, we put them in this tenuous position and it creates a situation in which your personnel, who have got to go after gang-bangers and need to be going after violent criminals and deal with the whole range of challenges, and who have to cooperate with DHS around our counterterrorism activities — you’ve got to spend time dealing with somebody who is not causing any other trouble other than the fact that they were trying to make a living for their families. That’s just not a good use of our resources. It’s not smart. It doesn’t make sense.”

May 14 in New York City: “We can build better — and we have to. We’ve got ports that aren’t ready for the next generation of cargo ships. We’ve got more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare. (Laughter.) We’ve got leaky pipes that lose billions of gallons of drinking water every single day, even as we’ve got a severe drought in much of the West. Nearly half our people don’t have access to transit at all. And I don’t have to tell you what some of our airports look like.”

May 14, at a DSCC fundraiser: “I was with de Blasio I guess two days before the election. We’re in Brooklyn; the streets are filled and everybody is waving. And I go into buy some cheesecake — some woman comes up and hugs me and kisses me and says, Oh, my sister just got on the Affordable Care Act and we love you. What can we do to support you? And I said, move to North Dakota. (Laughter.) If I could just get about a million excess votes in Brooklyn — (laughter) — out to Nebraska, Wyoming, we’d be doing okay. I don’t need 80 percent of the vote here. (Laughter.)”

May 16, speaking to reporters while eating lunch with Joe Biden: “Let me say something to these folks real quick so we can eat our burgers in peace. And excuse me, my voice is a little hoarse — I had a cold at the beginning of the week. In addition to coming to Shake Shack — which has great burgers and pays its employees over 10 bucks an hour, so we’re very proud of them and the great work that they’re doing — we’ve been talking a lot all across the country about the importance of raising the minimum wage.”

May 17, during his weekly address: “On Thursday, I’ll be heading to Cooperstown, New York — home of the Baseball Hall of Fame — to talk about tourism.”

May 19, at a DCCC fundraiser: “The debate we’re having right now is about, what, Benghazi? Obamacare? And it becomes this endless loop. It’s not serious. It’s not speaking to the real concerns that people have.”

May 20, meeting with business leaders: “SelectUSA turned out to be an enormously successful process where we’re coordinating between agencies as well as other stakeholders.”

Today the president’s schedule includes an ambassador credentialing ceremony, a ceremony with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, and designation of the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument at the Department of Interior.

He is still scheduled to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday.

UPDATE: At 9:30 a.m., the White House announced the president would be making a statement at 10:45, expected to be about the VA scandal.