Even though Carney had to tiptoe through Benghazi, the IRS, Fast and Furious, the Obamacare roll-out and countless Joe Bidenisms, he had to think the VA scandal and the Administration’s freelance trading of five Guantanamo terrorists for one U.S. soldier might require armpit-high waders.
Those last two issues may stick around longer than the previous ones. Or, who knows, something juicier may come along next week. Which is why Carney is no doubt gleefully cleaning out his office drawers. I think it’s a fair guess to say it doesn’t matter who the president is, being press secretary is no picnic. Ron Ziegler may have had it the worst when Richard Nixon was trying to skate through Watergate. Or maybe Mike McCurry and Joe Lockhart when they had to try to tactfully dance around Bill Cinton’s dalliances. Carney’s tenure, though, was marked by volume as well as substance.
It’s going to be hard to sweep the VA snafu under the rug. There probably hasn’t been as much political fervor in favor of soldiers in this country since World War II. The ebb and flow of that support is interesting. G.I.s coming home from Europe and Japan were given heroes’ welcomes. For Korean War vets, as Bob Newhart once said, “You remember that one. No benefits.” Vietnam was even worse. Troops went from Saigon to St. Louis overnight and were hardly greeted with respect. Most quickly ditched their uniforms and urged their crew cuts to grow out as fast as possible. No parades, no reunion moments at elementary schools.
Yet even with the present day heartfelt “Thanks for serving” greeting most returning vets get at the airport or wherever they appear, the medical care to which they are entitled by We the People just isn’t happening. The interminable wait for treatment and the manipulation of facts and figures to achieve bonuses, not to mention the deaths of vets caused by bureaucratic incompetence, are simply intolerable.
By the way, just as an aside, shouldn’t we look at how the federal government handles medical care for our warriors who have put their lives on the line for us and think hard about whether we want a similar body of civil servants in charge of health care for the rest of us? Food for thought.
But I digress. I have a suggestion that might prove beneficial in getting fast-track changes for the vets. Let’s require all federal employees (including members of Congress and administration personnel) to use the VA as their primary health care provider. Forget the complexities of the Affordable Care Act. Simply put all those being paid taxpayer money under the aegis of, say, the Phoenix Veteran’s Affairs Office.
I’m fairly certain there would be some swift changes. Senators having to wait a year for a doctor’s appointment and another 12 months for a hernia operation are not going to be happy campers.
And speaking of medical care, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the guy mentioned earlier for whom the Obama administration just swapped five known terrorists (which is a whole other story), was whisked away to a hospital almost immediately after his release. Fortunately for him, the VA medical facility he was sent to wasn’t in Arizona.
But it does beg a question: Where in the long line for care was Sgt. Bergdahl placed? If way up front, who made the decision to treat him first over some other veterans who might have been waiting for quite some time? Some reports say Bergdahl’s activities were suspect and his “capture” may merit further investigation. Do you suppose the families of those who died waiting for help will deduce that suspicious actions are what it takes to be treated?
Jay Carney may have to answer a few more questions before he departs for good.
Bill Lewis is a freelance writer in Marietta.