op-ed

Washington Dysfunction: Channeling Honest Abe

Mary Claire Kendall Author, Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends

Here we go again.

The nation desperately needed the best general, so to speak, to lead and transform the Department of Veterans Affairs so that those who have fought for our country will get the best medical care.

Aptly enough, on March 28, Spy Wednesday of Holy Week, President Donald Trump nominated an admiral, no less, Dr. Ronny Jackson, his personal physician, to head the embattled agency, which has languished in a sea of dysfunction for decades.

The announcement was met with a big thumbs down because he didn’t have the requisite experience, the Washington chorus intoned.

Yet, those who on paper were ideal for the job have failed to transform the agency so it can live up to its initial charter set forth by President Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Instead, American veterans, especially of Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, often lose their lives—those with PTSD, committing suicide at a rate of about 22 per day, which efficient and effective treatment could help avert; and older vets, with severe chronic diseases of the heart and lung, if not of the mind and soul, similarly often dying for want of proper and timely treatment.

So, President Trump named a doctor who has gotten his hands bloodied in war, saving countless lives as an emergency physician helming resuscitative medicine in a forward deployed Surgical Shock Platoon in Taqaddum, Iraq. (Dr. Jackson joined the 2nd Marines, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina from which he deployed in 2005.)

It was a smart pick. It’s more important to have the heart for a mission and bring on the best brains to join you in getting the job done, than to have a whiz kid who can deploy facts and figures and myriad management methods as seeming panaceas, but who lacks the searing experience of war and bond with wounded warriors that comes with it.

But over the Easter holiday, Dr. Jackson grew a crop of enemies who got to work railroading him and came up with this: He drinks on the job!

Which brings to mind another Lincoln quote regarding General Ulysses S. Grant whose political opponents tried to use the same ruse, as first reported by the New York Herald on September 18, 1863:

After the failure of [Grant’s] first experimental explorations around Vicksburg, a committee of abolition war managers waited upon the President and demanded the General’s removal, on the false charge that he was a whiskey drinker, and little better than a common drunkard. “Ah!” exclaimed Honest Old Abe, “you surprise me, gentlemen. But can you tell me where he gets his whiskey?” “We cannot, Mr. President. But why do you desire to know?” “Because, if I can only find out, I will send a barrel of this wonderful whiskey to every general in the army.”

Now that Dr. Jackson has withdrawn, we’ll see if any brave soul is willing to submit to the Washington maw. It’s enough to drive anyone to drink!

Mary Claire Kendall, a Washington-based writer and producer, served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Health during the four years of the Administration of President George H.W. Bush.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.