Politics and public opinion are unpredictable. What will resonate and what won't are seldom obvious. In the same way that President Bush was held personally responsible for his administration's inefficient response to Hurricane Katrina, even though he was actually several layers away from his administration's poor handling of the emergency response, so President Obama is now being held personally responsible for a growing cover-up scandal at the Veterans Administration. There are some interesting parallels and differences between the two that might help predict where the VA scandal goes.
Why did Katrina hurt Bush so much? Was it really more important than the Iraq war, for example? The answer is that no one could defend the administration's apparent incompetence in handling Katrina. With Bush's Iraq war, and Obama's disastrous ObamaCare and counter-productive efforts to restore our economy, there were several constituencies with reasons to support the Presidents' side, even as the war, ObamaCare and the stimulus became increasingly unpopular. By contrast, no one wanted to defend a slow response to the hurricane, or a VA so riddled with inefficiency, incompetence and corruption that it has cost the lives of some of our most revered heroes, with the toll mounting every day. There is simply no defense, not even from the most loyal of Presidential supporters.
Let's compare the two.
Within four days of the hurricane's landfall, President Bush approved sending 7,000 National Guard troops to the areas hit by the hurricane, approved a $10 billion aid package, and requested another $50 billion from Congress. Weeks after the VA scandal hit, President Obama has done nothing more than okay an internal VA investigation by an Inspector General.
Bush met with and demanded the resignation of failed FEMA Director Michael Brown. Obama met with but did not demand the resignation of VA Administration Eric Shinseki.
Bush had no reason to suspect that FEMA would let the country down at a critical juncture. Obama received and ignored several warnings that the VA had management problems so severe that they were costing lives and jeopardizing health outcomes.
When campaigning for the Presidency in 2008, candidate Obama said
• "I've pledged to build a 21st century VA as President." [Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2014/05/21/will-va-scandals-succeed-in-destroying-the-obama-administration-where-other-scandals-have-failed/]
• "Caring for those who serve and for their families is a fundamental responsibility of the commander-in-chief." [Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-21/obama-to-meet-shinseki-today-on-veterans-affairs-probe.html]
• "… we must never forget that honoring this service and upholding these ideals requires more than saluting our veterans as they march by on Veterans Day or Memorial Day. It requires marching with them for the care and benefits they have earned It requires standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our veterans and their families after the guns fall silent and the cameras are turned off. … the true test of our patriotism is whether we will serve our returning heroes as well as they've served us…We know that over the last eight years, we've already fallen short of meeting this test." [Source: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=77299]
Writing in the Chicago Tribune, John Kass said, quote, "He's a talker, this President Windsock from Chicago, first leaning this way, then that, considering everything, lecturing, talking, talking, talking. As he talks, remember what Republican and Democratic presidents have ignored for years: the obligation of the nation to the veterans who put their bodies in harm's way. Over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, he'll talk some more. He'll talk of sacrifice and service. But Obama told reporters Wednesday that if the allegations about the VA prove true, he won't put up with it anymore. "It is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period," said the president, providing the proper sound bite. He also said that he welcomed Congress getting involved, but added this: "It is important that our veterans don't become another political football, especially when so many of them are receiving care right now," he said. He dared lecture Congress about using veterans as political footballs? The president who closed national war memorials during the sequestration so he could use the anguish of aged veterans as a political weapon?
The man must be besotted by the sound of his own voice, since he forgot other words that belonged to him years ago.. He was Sen. Obama then, patting himself on the back as soldier politicians flocked to his candidacy and joined his cause. End of quote.
Mr. Kass has it right. We have a President who loves nothing so much as the sound of his own voice. The American people are onto him. This VA scandal will be Obama's Katrina. This weekend is a fitting time to reflect on how this President has ill-served those whom we honor on Memorial Day.
(Colin Hanna is President of Let Freedom Ring, USA. Their website is www.letfreedomringusa.org