Why Trump's VA Pick Got Torpedoed
At about the same time that Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the now former White House physician and former combat medic in Iraq, was forced to withdraw from consideration to be the next secretary of the Veterans Administration, CIA Director Mike Pompeo was confirmed as the second Secretary of State in the Trump administration by a vote of fifty-seven to forty-two. There is no doubt that neither was qualified for these positions. However, Admiral Jackson was not forced to withdraw because of his lack of management experience to run an agency with nearly 370,000 employees and a budget of nearly $200 billion. He was forced to withdraw because of allegations against his personal and professional behavior, which were supposedly unknown to his superiors in the White House. If true, those allegations render Admiral Jackson inappropriate not only for a future cabinet officer but a current naval officer.
On the other hand, Secretary Pompeo actually committed a much more grievous personal offense. He led members of the Congress, the media, and the public to believe that he had actually fought in the first Gulf War. Pompeo never corrected half of his public biographies—including his Wikipedia page—and said nothing when fifty-one members of the Congress, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, supported his appointment because of his war service, or when public publications across the political spectrum praised him for his service in that conflict.
I myself was misled, when relying on these sources I wrote about the fact that his war service was not something that should prevent him from a rigorous confirmation hearing any more than it did for Chuck Hagel when he was nominated by President Obama to be secretary of defense. Hagel not only served in Vietnam but was wounded twice there.
When Sen. John Tester, the ranking member of the Senate Veterans Committee, accused Jackson of personal and professional transgressions, I found it hard to believe that Jackson would have been allowed to serve in the White House under three presidents or have been promoted to admiral in the Navy if all these accusations were true.
According to Tester, former colleagues of Jackson claimed, among other things, that he drank to excess while on duty, handed out drugs liberally, created a hostile work environment, crashed a government vehicle while driving away from a Secret Service going away party, and had to be restrained by the Secret Service when on a trip he pounded on another White House official’s hotel room door. That door was close enough to President Obama’s room that Jackson risked disturbing the president.