Topics: Veterans Affairs

Obama reportedly 'madder than hell' over Veterans Affairs scandal but he's still not showing it

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Barack Obama,Veterans Affairs,Charles Hoskinson,Eric Shinseki

When it comes to the growing scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs, even members of the media are beginning to wonder: Where's President Obama?

And the administration keeps assuring us he cares -- just not enough to personally address the issue.

"The President is madder than hell, and I've got the scars to prove it," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough declared Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"The president will continue to demand that he and all of us who work for him continue to fix these things until they are functioning the way that our veterans believe they should ... so that they get the services and the benefits that they have earned."

Well, actions speak louder than words. As I wrote last week, the president's response to the crisis has been disturbingly passive, especially compared to his often-passionate public reaction to other issues.

A little example: On Friday, the news that Veterans Affairs Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel had resigned came in a statement from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. Obama, apparently, was more concerned about Saturday's International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, because that's what he chose to weigh in on. (Putting aside, for a moment, the fact that Petzel had already planned to retire and his replacement had already been named.)

It's not that Obama doesn't get passionate about anything. As Slate's John Dickerson noted, Obama and his team publicly rushed to not just fix the problems that came after the launch of healthcare.gov in October, but made sure Americans knew they were doing it.

"After healthcare.gov had its bad start, the president spoke to the country frequently and appointed an emergency team to solve the management and technological issues. Everyone in the administration was very clear on the dire stakes," Dickerson wrote.

And when he needed veterans' votes to help him win the presidency, Obama was very passionate.

"As President, I won't stand for hundreds of thousands of veterans waiting for benefits. We'll hire additional claims workers," Obama said at an Oct. 5, 2007, town hall in Iowa. "We'll bring together veterans groups and the VA to work out a claims process that is fair and fast. And instead of shutting veterans out, we'll make sure that our disabled vets receive the benefits they deserve, and we'll allow all veterans back into the VA health care system. And we'll have a simple policy when it comes to homeless veterans: zero tolerance. We'll expand housing vouchers. We'll set up a new supportive services program to prevent at-risk veterans and their families from sliding into homelessness. We'll stand with veterans in their hour of need, just as they have stood up for us."

Carney, for his part, had an all-too-familiar excuse Monday for why the president has not publicly spoken about the VA controversy except to answer a reporter's question a press conference in Asia three weeks ago.

“I think it is important to allow the investigations -- investigation and review -- to come to a completion, so we can see what the facts are and you can see the actions that Secretary [Eric] Shinseki and others at the VA take in response to any revelations that are contained within those,” he said.

But, as I've written, the president has shown no such caution regarding military sexual assault cases -- so much so, in fact, that comments he made a year ago had to be disavowed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to help prevent them from interfering with prosecutions of accused offenders.

Obama found time in his busy schedule this week for three Democratic fundraisers -- one on Monday evening in Maryland and two others on Thursday in Chicago.

Surely he can find time for veterans who need care and aren't getting it.

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