President Barack Obama Wednesday urged voters and GOP legislators not to politicize the spreading scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and promised he’ll get the results of an internal investigation by the end of June.
He also suggested that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki may resign after completion of the investigation by late June, if it reveals “systemic” problems.
“Ric Shinseki I think serves this country because… he cares deeply about the mission,” Obama said during the damage-control press conference. “And I know that Ric’s attitude is if he does not think he can do a good job on this and if he thinks he has let our veterans down, then I’m sure that he is not going to be interested in continuing to serve.”
Obama met with Shinseki this morning, but did not invite him to attend or answer questions at the press conference.
The scandal is dangerous for Obama, partly because it can’t be easily spun to reporters as a partisan attack, as White House officials have repeatedly described prior scandals at the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies. The VA crisis could further damage his low polling support among Americans, and especially among the older Americans who are more likely to vote in the November midterm elections.
“If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful and I will not tolerate it, period,” he said at a surprise and brief press conference Wednesday morning, where he only answered questions from three reporters.
He also tried to minimize the political damage by urging Republicans in Congress to be silent about the crisis.
“I welcome Congress as a partner in our efforts … [but] it is important that our veterans don’t become another football. … This is an area where Democrats and Republicans should always be working together,” Obama said.