Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Two briefing room visits; two resignations

President Obama was busy at the podium in the James Brady briefing room Friday.

Earlier in the day he announced the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shisenki amid allegations of nationwide misconduct within VA hospitals.

Before that, he announced that Shinseki would be firing a few officials within the VA hierarchy. 

Said the president to reporters in the briefing room, "Secretary Shinseki has now begun the process of firing many of the people responsible, including senior leaders at the Phoenix VA.  He’s canceled any possible performance bonuses this year for VHA senior executives.  And he has ordered the VA to personally contact every veteran in Phoenix waiting for appointments to get them the care that they need and that they deserve. 

The president said he would hold accountable those responsible, and it looks like Shinseki  also made that list.

"Last week, I said that if we found misconduct, it would be punished.  And I meant it", the Commander-in-Chief said.

It just sounds better to say someone turned in their resignation, than to say, 'this morning I fired Secretary Shisenki'.    So, this morning Shisenki 'turned in' his resignation after a review of VA facilities revealed more misconduct that had initially been suspected.

Shinsenki's got to go.

Many had been calling for Shinseki's head for more than a week and today, those people got what they were looking for.   He formally submitted his resignation to the Commander-in-Chief earlier today, to the regret of both parties.

Still, the president highlighted Shinseki's work saying, "...he presided over record investments in our veterans; enrolling two million new veterans in health care, delivering disability pay to more Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, making it easier for veterans with post-traumatic stress, mental health issues and traumatic brain injury to get treatment, improving care for our women veterans.  At the same time, he helped reduce veteran homelessness, and helped more than one million veterans, service members and their families pursue their education under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

With reports showing veterans being wait-listed for years before receiving medical attention, faulty numbers showing how many vets actually did receive care, and reports that show the number of veterans that actually died before being seen for medical care, we also now know what Shinseki didn't do.

Those on the left would like to pen the VA debacle on the president who selected Shinseki, the former Army Chief of Staff, to his post as VA Secretary in 2010.   But when your boss hires you to do your job and oversee the nation's VA infrastructure, then that's what you do.

Shinseki, seated 4th from the left, panels a discussion on homeless Americans, including vets.  Photo/CD Brown.
Above is a photo we took in 2010 when the administration announced its Opening Doors initiative to rid homelessness among veterans.  It's interesting to note the smiles on the other panelists' face, but not former secretary Shinseki.  Also interesting to note is the people in the picture who have resigned from the current administration, save for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan (first from the left).

Sloan Gibson will serve as interim VA Secretary.

** Update Monday, June 2, 2014** On Wednesday afternoon, June 4, 2014, as part of the Joining Forces initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama will announce The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. As part of this announcement, the First Lady will highlight leaders from over 80 cities, counties, and states across the country who have committed to ending veteran homelessness by 2015.

Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Sloan Gibson, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, will also deliver remarks at the event. Mayors from across the country will be in attendance.
Jay Carney resigns as Press Secretary

The job of White House Press Secretary isn't an easy one.    One must take on the persistent barrage of tough questions from reporters, all while trying to make your employer look good.

 President  Obama announces Jay Carney is resigning (view at 5:00 mark).

Jay Carney has tried to do that, replacing (and outlasting) his predecessor,
Robert Gibbs, by one year who claimed he needed to "recharge".   Carney replaced Gibbs in 2011 after Gibbs served for two years, from 2009 to 2011. No one has held court longer than Ronald Reagan's press secretary, James Brady, who served eight years from 1981-1989.

Carney, who has been trying to resign since April of this year, says he also needs to 'recharge'.  (Doesn't one usually use a vacation (or a fake sick day) to do that?) 

In 2011 after answering questions about the book, The Obamas, written by Jodi Kantor, a New York Times correspondent with access to certain White House employees who commented on a riff between Gibbs and First Lady Michelle Obama, Carney was quoted as saying, "But these are high-pressure jobs.  There's always a lot at stake.  And the commitment the people show to the President, to the First Lady, and to the causes that brought them here is fierce.  And sometimes that intensity leads people to raise their voices or have sharp exchanges.  But the overall picture is one of remarkable collegiality and a genuine focus." 

We will miss White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who resigned his position today.
He will be replaced by Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
Perhaps Carney, who wants to focus on his family, will accompany his ABC News correspondent wife, Claire Shipman, author of 'Work Less, Achieve More, Live Better' to help promote her new book, Not Working At All  The Confidence Code:  The Science and Art of Self-Assurance - What Women Should Know.
To be precise, it is unclear what career path Mr. Carney will now undertake.  Suffice it to say, however, Carney (a sports fan) will probably spend more time with his son at baseball games, and watching the current NBA playoffs; and we wish him well - which we know he will be.
Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest will replace Carney.

Also on the day at the White House

The Secretary Shinseki and Press Secretary Carney news at the White House today overshadowed the news about the administration's efforts to help young boys stay on the right track.
The President's My Brother's Keeper initiative is designed to help young males in the African American and Latino communities stay on track by providing support to direct their paths to become successful young men.

The president is reaching out to businesses and government entities, and has selected former NBA player Earvin 'Magic' Johnson to lead the charge to continue to determine opportunities for this particular demographic of young boys who struggle with being left out of opportunities for advancement and opportunities.  

The president is also calling on those who would serve as mentors to young people by asking those interested to sign up at

Over the weeks to come the administration's task force will focus on the initiative's scope, which is to "leverage government, corporate and non-profit programs in order to direct resources and attentions to the unique problems facing young black and Hispanic men.
A 90-day evaluation of the effort has generated with a series of recommendations including improving mentor programs, eliminating harsh disciplinary actions in pre-school, and making sure more boys of color can read at grade level by third grade. It also calls for increasing high school graduation, summer employment, and apprenticeship programs for men to gain entry-level jobs. Finally, the group is working toward reduce racial and ethnic bias in the racial and criminal justice systems."

Read more on the initiative here.

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