Donald Trump

Trump Nominates a Toady for the Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. Ronny Jackson is the hapless underling of an incompetent leader.

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Donald Trump has many regrettable qualities, but seldom do they come together in such perfect concert as in his nomination of Dr. Ronny Jackson for secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

If you work for Trump, you have a choice: You can be a shameless toady, or you can try not to let the door hit you on your way out. Jackson, the White House physician, chose the former, and he not only got to keep his job; he got a promotion.

Jackson came to national attention in January, when he appeared in the White House press room to give a report on the president's physical exam. The briefing quickly turned into a festival of idolatry. Trump's health is "excellent," Jackson declared over and over, attesting that the president has "incredible cardiac fitness" and "incredible genes."

Had he eaten "a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old," Jackson gushed. "It's just the way God made him." Michelangelo's David can only gaze with envy on Trump's physical perfection.

The doctor's performance was reminiscent of one time when Soviet dictator Josef Stalin gave a speech. When he finished, applause erupted—and went on and on because everyone was afraid to stop clapping. Jackson had the haunted look and nervous manner of someone standing on a trapdoor above a pit of crocodiles. He was not about to risk the wrath of his boss.

Plenty of physicians took issue with his evaluation of Trump. CNN's Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon, said to Jackson: "He is taking a cholesterol-lowering medication. He has evidence of heart disease. And he's borderline obese. Can you characterize that as excellent health?"

Dr. David Maron, director of preventive cardiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, said he would "definitely" worry about a patient with Trump's LDL cholesterol reading. Asked by The New York Times whether the president is in perfect health, Maron replied, "God, no."

Jackson thus passed the first test for serving Trump—unabashed servility. He also checks other boxes on the president's list of ridiculous qualifications for vital posts.

Trump loves people with a certain look, and the square-jawed Texan has it. "He's like central casting—like a Hollywood star," he marveled. Trump chose Mike Pence as his running mate partly because "he looks very good." But if appearance were a reliable guide to performance, Warren Harding would have been a great president, and Abraham Lincoln would be forgotten.

Infatuation with the military also figures into Trump's choices, and Jackson is a Navy admiral. Trump has given a number of key jobs to generals—Michael Flynn, James Mattis, H.R. McMaster, and John Kelly. The only thing better than a White House physician who praises him to the heavens is one also bedecked in medals.

Trump has the attention span of a squirrel. It's entirely possible that he got rid of Secretary David Shulkin because he got bored seeing him in the same job for so long. Shaking up personnel and their assignments is something this president needs to hold his interest.

Shulkin reportedly ran afoul of people in the administration who favor privatization of VA medical care. But it's hard to imagine that Trump was motivated by deep convictions on such a dry topic.

Jackson is short on qualifications for running an agency that employs 360,000 people and operates 170 medical centers. The department has long been plagued by scandals and sloppy administration. It needs far greater management skills than Jackson would bring.

But Trump has no appetite for expertise. His Housing and Urban Development secretary, Ben Carson, is a complete novice in the field. The top White House adviser on science has a degree in…political science.

Underlying all these considerations is the president's inability to grasp that his decisions have tangible consequences for actual human beings. He can't focus on the pressing needs of men and women whose military service brought them serious health problems that will require lifelong care.

Jackson is an able physician with a stellar record of service to his country. But his nomination to this office makes him look terribly inadequate, the hapless underling of an incompetent leader.

Serving this president means enabling his reckless conduct and sacrificing one's reputation. Jackson will find what so many others have learned: To be touched by Trump is to be stained forever.

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  1. Hard hitting article from Steve Chapman! I know it is good reporting when it looks like something my aunt posted in a Facebook rant!

    Resistance 2018!

  2. Shulkin reportedly ran afoul of people in the administration who favor privatization of VA medical care. But it’s hard to imagine that Trump was motivated by deep convictions on such a dry topic.

    This is the only sentence about his policy in the entire article. How about a little more spent on that. I don’t care that the guy put in a the situation of having to speak to the media about his bosses health told some white lies. It’s just not important to whether he can do the job or not. I would like to hear about his objection to privatization as that is the dis-qualifier for me and I suspect most on this site.

  3. “Jackson is an able physician with a stellar record of service to his country. ”

    /thread? Questionably-motivated appointments shouldn’t be surprising.

    1. Any time you see someone touted as a “public servant,” you’d do well to take it with a grain of salt the size of a small child.

      1. Not if they’re military.

  4. All I can say is previous Presidents put well-qualified experts in charge of the VA and it’s the poster child for governmental ineptitude. I suspect this guy isn’t going to make things any better, if he has no relevant executive experience he’s going to get rolled and house-broken by the paper-shufflers currently running things in about a week because who else can he rely on for “expert” advice on what the VA needs. (More money and another layer of administrators.) But he can hardly make things worse.

    Trump should have solicited Mitt Romney’s advice and brought in somebody from Bain Capital equipped with an axe and a truckload of spikes on which to display the heads. But Trump suffers from the Dunning-Kruger effect and has no idea how to identify and delegate responsibility to the sort of people he needs to put in place.

  5. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for Trump firing the last guy without hesitation.

    There was no, “Let’s go to the wall rather than admit anyone in our administration ever did anything wrong”.

    1. Yeah, there was only an outright lie about the guy resigning on his volition and not being fired. You are a terrible judge of character by the way.

      1. If you lefties knew anything about Trump you would already know that Trump does not want people who are not cutting the mustard to stay around. Trump has no problem firing people who are not doing their jobs well.

        This goes against every ounce of the Big Stater’s being, since they love to use political appointments as tools to gain more power. Who cares about the actual veterans who have to wait years for claims to be resolved or to get the medical attention they were promised.

      2. You’re talking about the way Shulkin was fired–not whether he was fired?

        The report from the internal investigation determining that Shulkin had misused travel for his wife and fibbed about it came out in February. He was gone by March.

        I have no idea what you’re talking about “judge of character”. What is that in reference to?

  6. “Jackson thus passed the first test for serving Trump?unabashed servility. He also checks other boxes on the president’s list of ridiculous qualifications for vital posts.

    Trump loves people with a certain look, and the square-jawed Texan has it. “He’s like central casting?like a Hollywood star,” he marveled. Trump chose Mike Pence as his running mate partly because “he looks very good.” But if appearance were a reliable guide to performance, Warren Harding would have been a great president, and Abraham Lincoln would be forgotten.

    TDS needs its own entry in the next editions of DSM-6 and ICD-11. It really shouldn’t just be filed under “anxiety disorder otherwise not specified”.

  7. You do know Dr. Jackson was appointed White House physician in 2013 by Obama?

    And people in the press wonder why Trump supporters hate and distrust the press. It is due to all the misrepresentations, twisting of the truth and outright lies in the service of trying to make Trump look bad.

    1. Trump supporters hate the press because Trump supporters are half-educated, bigoted, disaffected, economically inadequate, superstitious, subliterate rubes — the folks who have been on the wrong end of bright flight for generations, and consequently constitute the weak human residue that inhabits our can’t-keep-up southern and rural backwaters.

      Mainstream journalists tend to be properly educated, to live in modern and successful communities, and to be familiar with standard English. For a Trump fan, that’s antichrist-level elitism.

      Carry on, clingers.

      So far as your lousy educations, bigoted souls, and superstition-laced gullibility could carry anyone, at least.

      1. JournoLists: half-educated, bigoted, disaffected, economically inadequate, superstitious, subliterate rubes — the folks who have been on the wrong end of bright flight for generations, and consequently constitute the weak human residue that inhabits our can’t-keep-up urban areas.

      2. Trump supporters are half-educated, bigoted, disaffected, economically inadequate, superstitious, subliterate rubes

        Your proggie tolerance is on full display.

      3. Arthur L. Hicklib trying to pretend he’s not a stupid hick again.

      4. Arty, it amuses me to think you are somehow intelligent. As someone who is your intellectual better by many orders of magnitude, I can tell you that you are a very limited creature, and should learn obedience to conservatives and libertarians. Granted, imparting instructions to one of your limited cognition will require extra effort, similar to training a poorly bred small dog, but with time it is possible for you to learn to obey.

        You should fully apply yourself in this area Arty. You are incapable of any higher aspiration.

    2. That was my question as well. Nothing in Chapman’s piece shows any research of either Admiral Jackson’s role through the Obama White House or of his actual history of command in the Navy. It merely presumes that anyone who Trump has interacted with in the past in any positive fashion must suffer from some sort of blood libel. I (somehow) expect better journalism from Reason ? even Shikha at least presents sources before shitting the bed with her article’s thesis.

      1. Shikha’s clit is bigger than Chapman’s.

  8. Chapman, you have lost your mind. The TDS is so strong with you.

    Dr. Ronny Jackson is an admiral, so he has managed some people. He has been in the military long enough to be a veteran himself. He is also a doctor. Seems like good qualifications to me.

    So, according to Chapman, meeting someone personally and seeing them in action disqualifies that person to serve in government…because TRUMP.

    Oh yeah, I am a veteran myself and getting anyone in there as VA director to fix that disaster of a system would be an improvement.

    1. He was President Obama’s doctor when he was in office, as well

      1. I am sure that Trump figured this guy would be perfect because he was the assigned personal physician for presidents Obama and Trump.

        The TDS is so strong with the lefties that they would scream about Obama being nominated by Trump as a VA director justice simply because Trump nominated him.

        1. No matter who Trump nominated, idiots like Chapman are going to write articles like this one.

          1. “No matter who Trump nominated, idiots like Chapman are going to write articles like this one.”

            No matter what, Chapman going to write ick.

            1. Fuckin’ A right, Robert. Fuckin’ A right.

    2. If Shulkin was fired or resigned because of a disagreement on privatization then goodbye. Aren’t we always told that political appointments serve at the pleasure of the president? I hope all kinds of changes to the system are looked at but I’m pessimistic that congress will allow anything meaningful to happen.

      My experience with the VA is mixed. My local VA hospital is good for the routine and minor issues but the long term care and more complicated issues are where they are lacking facilities and compotent staff.

      I’m dumbfounded when the press states that Admiral Jackson doesn’t have the management skills or experience to run an organization as big and complex as the VA. How do they know what his skills are? Did he fail managing all the way up to Admiral?

      If I recall Hillary was touted by the press as a superb pick for Secretary of State, maybe not by this publication, but her skills and experience prior to that post was lacking in skills and experience; lawyer at law firm, First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of US, and senator from NY. None of which have a staff or budget anywhere close to the State department and none of those previous positions dealt with issues that State handles. Since Admiral Jackson is a veteran, a doctor, and has served in combat zones, he is eminently more qualified to head the VA than Hillary was to head State.

      1. Aren’t we always told that political appointments serve at the pleasure of the president?

        Yeah–but by the real president. Hillary. She won the popular vote by two million votes.

    3. Oh yeah, I am a veteran myself

      This begins to explain America’s failure to win a war in more than seven decades. We’ve had to settle for a series of vague draws with ragtag irregulars, despite enormous resource advantage, from old side of the globe to another.

      I ascribe in failure, in large part, to guys like loveconstitution1789.

      We need to find a way to attract a better class of person to military service, and to law enforcement.

      1. Rev., I needed a good laugh today.

        A simple “thank you for your military service” from you would at least allow me to not laugh at you today.

        P.S. You’re welcome for me protecting you.

        1. How did you protect me? The United States has not been attacked during my lifetime.

          If you meant that you rode a desk, peeled some potatoes, or mopped a floor somewhere on the government dime because you couldn’t find a good job or get into college, thanks for the “protection.”

          1. The United States has been attacked multiple times since WWII. 9/11 was one such example.

            United States territory and interests have been attacked numerous times since WWII. Embassies, private US shipping, US troops, US military ships have been attacked as examples.

            You’re welcome for protecting you.

  9. I think the commentators at Reason are the last people who still think this is a libertarian publication rather than just a neoliberal rag. You’ll get less upset if you just accept reality. Reason is as libertarian as Bill Weld

    1. Well, seeing as Bill Weld was the Official Libertarian? VP Candidate it’s arguable he’s far more of a libertarian than anyone from the commentariat.

      1. Hey, Libertarian /= libertarian.

        1. They are totally the same, because Libertarians? are the official spokespeople for libertarians. If anything, as the official spokespeople for libertarians, I would say we should view Libertarians? as even more libertarian than the plebs they represent. True incarnations of the spirit of the movement.

    2. You say “neoliberal” like its a bad thing inconsistent with libertarianism.

      1. Yes, because Bill Clinton was the most libertarian-y president ever!

  10. Interestingly Trump is getting very good advice on judicial nominees. If you are worried about his overreach he has likely been appointing judges that would rule against him doing so. Cutting regulations and taxes have been steps in the right direction as well. From a Libertarian perspective his rhetoric makes you cringe but actions have had some promise.

    1. Looks like Kennedy is retiring, so he he does not make the same mistake RBG made waiting for Hillary to never be president.

      Every good justice Trump gets onto the bench gives this Republic a few more years reprieve from the socialist executioner.

      1. Did Kennedy refrain from hiring clerks, or are you just demonstrating your unfamiliarity with the operations of the Supreme Court?

        1. Did Kennedy hire clerks?

  11. Slow day at the Reason office when the Dept of Veterans Affairs is breaking news. Honestly, what a nothing-burger of a story.

    1. Very slow day when an Admiral who has been a doctor his entire adult life is unqualified to be head of the VA.

      Also taking quotes from doctors who have not actually examined Trump as being expert on Trumps health.

      1. It falls into the usual template of “We need new blood and different ideas to fix this”. Then, when new blood and different ideas are tried, “WE CANNOT HAVE THIS OUT-OF-CONTROL RADICAL HERE!!!”

        1. Yup. That’s why TDS is so fun to use with people like Chapman. The stuff they scream is gibberish because Hillary should have won.

  12. To be touched by Trump is to be stained forever.

    This has to be some kind of sick euphemism.

    1. I think he’s confusing Trump with Bill Clinton, and is specifically referring to the dresses of interns

  13. Trump apparently saves all his love for “toadies.” Why don’t lickspittles get respect?

  14. I don’t know much about this guy, but accusing an Admiral of lacking in management skills is silly. Yes, this is much larger than he’s worked before, but that’s true of almost anyone being appointed head of a ginormous federal program. He’s an overseas vet who has been associated with the VA and Harvard medical programs for years. So he gave Trump a positive medical review when a bunch of people on TV think he’s unhealthy, who cares. I’d rather have him than some career liberal asshole using the VA as a social experiment laboratory.

    ( – signed, a VA patient that didn’t vote for Trump )

    1. Agree. This article is more or less TDS histrionics.

      The guy has been a WH physician since 2006 (toady ?), and a quick review of his bio it appears he has more than zero experience leading complex health organizations. The number of people who’ve led organizations with 360,000 employees is vanishingly small, and so that to me is not an automatic disqualifier.

      Maybe the guy indeed isn’t qualified…but Reason hasn’t made anything approaching a convincing case why.

      Maybe Reason wouldn’t get so much “whataboutism” if they didn’t supply article after article that made it a perfectly reasonable response.

      1. I mentioned last week that if we compare budgets and employees, there are zero hospital system that even approach the size and scale of the VA. The nearest 2 are a large distance behind in budget, number of hospitals and staff.

        1. Spot. On.

    2. And why is it such a given that Trump has to be so unhealthy? He’s only 70, doesn’t drink or smoke, and is mega rich. She he can afford the best medical care. Money can buy. Looking back to the 2016 election season shows him to have endless energy for his campaign. As opposed to The Hag, who would disappear for days at a time between campaign stops.

      Apart from being overweight, Trump actually does appear to be healthy.

      1. The Hag, who would disappear for days at a time between campaign stops.

        You mean campaign stop, fall, get up and go home?

        1. Pretty much. I wonder if they put her in an iron lung between campaign events.

  15. Putting Jackson in charge fits a Trump pattern. He has bought into the GOP’s penchant for allowing government agencies to whither on the vine so that later on they can roll them back or privatize them. Great damage may be done in the short term but if Trump’s supporters get their way it will yield handsome profits for whatever entity gets to siphon off contracts with the VA.

    1. We can only hope.

  16. Because no other president has surrounded himself with people that like him (or at least pretend to).

  17. Shorter Steve Chapwoman: “Block Insane Yomomma and Hildog good, Trump a big fat poopyhead.”

    1. Whoa now! That sounds just a bit sophisticated for Chapman’s thought processes.

  18. Wait, he’s a “toady” just because he didn’t confirm your conviction that Trump was desperately unhealthy? Man, that’s lame.

  19. A “toady”? You are a disgrace, Chapman.

    Do you even realize that Dr. Jackson was appointed to his post as WH physician by Obama? Or do you believe the fake news reports that he is “trumps personal doctor”.

    Intelligent people can argue about what qualifications are needed for the VA post, but to characterize Dr. Jackson as a “toady”, is just appalling.

    Stupid hack.

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  21. “Greetings from The Humungus! The Lord Humungus! The Warrior of the Wasteland! The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!”

    1. The Out of Controller?

  22. “Underlying all these considerations is the president’s inability to grasp that his decisions have tangible consequences for actual human beings.”

    I thought Reason was a Libertarian leaning publication?

    Instead of criticizing the President’s appointments, Reason and its readers would be better served discussing why these federal departments and agencies even exist as they have no Constitutional mandate to do so.

    The best possible thing President Trump could do is put do-nothings in these positions. It would be even better if these do-nothings submitted $0 budget requests for these agencies they oversee.

  23. I wish Admiral Jackson well; I hope he succeeds wildly. However, he is (on paper) grossly unqualified. He is an extremely competent physician but he’s been appointed to a CEO-type position and he doesn’t have any significant leadership positions. BUT HES AN ADMIRAL!!! Yeah, that’s because Obama liked him and was signing his FITREPs, not because a track record of successful leadership positions. There are many Navy admirals who are WAY more qualified in Navy Medicine. Why not the current Navy Surgeon General who is in charge of tens of thousands of personnel and dozens of facilities? Jackson is in charge of 24 personnel.

  24. “But if appearance were a reliable guide to performance, Warren Harding would have been a great president, and Abraham Lincoln would be forgotten.”

    Warren Harding WAS a great president. He slashed Woodrow Wilson’s taxes and released all his political prisoners.

  25. I have subscribed to Reason expecting balanced and rational journalism, this wave of MSNBC level articles is annoying and disappointing. “Reason”‘s staff should grow up.

    1. They’re probably salivating over those MSNBC jobs. But they only get them for being ‘good ones’.

  26. Toadys are people, too. Or at least I think they are. Well, maybe not. Is there a Toady’s Union out there. We can ask them. All I know is that there seem to be quite a few Toadys around. Someone has to feed them. Maybe that’s why they’re Toadys, to get someone to feed them. Just an idea.

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  28. One thing I would like to know.

    So being the personal physician for a man in excellent health as he reported. Can’t be much to keep him busy. During this time does he still practice emergency medicine?

    Wish him well because he has a difficult job ahead of him.

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