WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama offered his dreaded vote of some confidence this past week.
The target was Eric Shinseki, the retired Army general who heads the Department of Veterans Affairs. Shinseki’s agency is battling allegations of overly long wait times and false record-keeping at VA facilities. Obama addressed the issue Wednesday — and gave Shinseki the lukewarm endorsement every appointed official fears.
“Ric Shinseki has been a great soldier,” Obama said, starting strong. “He himself is a disabled veteran, and nobody cares more about our veterans than Ric Shinseki.” But the president didn’t stop there. “We’re going to work with him to solve the problem, but I am going to make sure that there is accountability throughout the system after I get the full report.”
And there it is. The guy putting together that report? Not Shinseki but Rob Nabors, a White House deputy chief of staff and Obama loyalist. Uh oh.
No, Shinseki isn’t likely to go soon. Obama abhors the media clamor for a sacrificial lamb — recall how long it took for Kathleen Sebelius to step down from the Department of Health and Human Services after the HealthCare.gov fiasco — and will make sure that the swarm moves on before he takes any action.
When asked by reporters Thursday whether he had offered his resignation to the president, Shinseki replied: “No. You guys know me better than that.” Still, he might want to start putting out feelers for a post-administration gig in the not-too-distant future.
Eric Shinseki, for sitting tight as you wait for the ax to fall, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Cillizza covers the White House for The Washington Post and writes The Fix, its politics blog.