When President Trump selected Dr. Ronny Jackson to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, it was simultaneously surprising and completely predictable. Jackson’s inexperience at running an agency even close to the size of the VA not only did not disqualify him, it actually made him even more of a perfect fit in Trump’s White House. Remember, most of Trump’s current and former staff (Hope Hicks, Omarosa, Ben Carson, Jared Kushner, Ivanka, etc) had no government experience before he hired them. In fact, Trump himself had no governing experience before becoming president.
Therefore, Jackson’s inexperience mattered little to the president. The longtime White House physician had the only quality Trump truly values in an employee: loyalty. The doctor’s glowing public review of Trump’s health had won him favor with the president and allowed the two to establish a personal rapport. When the embattled David Shulkin was fired via tweet, Jackson was the president’s first choice to take over the job.
Before he could be confirmed, however, he needed to pass Senate confirmation. This should have been no problem in a Republican-controlled Congress, even considering Jackson’s lack of experience. After all, Betsy DeVos was confirmed and she was a certifiable disaster from the beginning. The difference, however, between Trump and the Senate is that they actually vet the Cabinet picks.
With just a little big of digging, bipartisan senators on the Veterans Affairs Committee found some disturbing allegations revolving around Jackson. These include drinking on duty, drunkenly banging on a female employee’s door during an overseas trip, allegedly being nicknamed “Candy Man” for giving out drugs like candy and more. Needless to say, this is not exactly appropriate behavior. Then again, neither is bragging about sexual assault on a Hollywood Access bus and that did not seem to disqualify his boss.
Jackson’s confirmation hearing has nonetheless been postponed in the wake of these reports. As more and more details continue to emerge about Jackson’s horrifying workplace behavior, the question remains whether Trump’s people took the time to vet him at all. If they did, surely they would have come upon this information. Perhaps they did know all about Jackson’s unsettling past and just chose to look the other way, just like they did with Rob Porter. Honestly, it is difficult to distinguish which would be worse: blatant ineptitude to look into the man who will be heading a large government agency or calculated ignorance in order to sneak him into power because Trump likes him. The saddest part is that at this point, neither would be shocking.
The president is sticking by his pick thus far, though also has also implied that he may withdraw his name from consideration. If so, “Pickle” or the eleven-year-old boy who mowed Trump’s lawn maw be next in line for the promotion. They both have shown their loyalty to Trump and neither will get in trouble for drinking on the job, considering they are both at least ten years under the legal drinking age.
In all seriousness, the worst part of this Ronny Jackson scandal is that he was ever nominated in the first place. Trump said at the Republican National Convention in 2016, “we will take care of our great veterans like they have never been taken care of before”. That much seems to be true. It is difficult to remember a time when veterans were treated this poorly. Nominating someone with no experience and a clear disqualifying workplace history is a slap in the face to all those who served our country.
The White House insists Jackson was “thoroughly vetted.” With his deplorable history, anyone with a working brain who vetted Jackson would agree that he is not fit to head an agency. In fact, to use a phrase Trump loves, he “couldn’t get elected dog catcher.” Drinking on the job, harassing female employees and carelessly handing out drugs are not qualities anyone should want in an employee. It is common sense that would even apply to a part-time high school job, let alone a national Cabinet position.
The veterans deserve better than Ronny Jackson. Even more so, they certainly deserve much better than anyone who would think Jackson deserves to head their agency.