David Shulkin was, until recently, the secretary of the Veterans Administration. He was a former hospital administrator and just about everyone thought he was doing a good job in difficult circumstances. Everybody would include the veterans, the congress, the veteran organizations and so on. Early on, even Trump praised his efforts to get bi-partisan support for changes at the VA.
In spite of these successes, Shulkin wasn’t as keen on privatizing the VA as Trump and some of his close supporters. After all, the budget of the VA is now approaching $200 B and that’s a lot of money going to government facilities that could be going to private interests.
So on March 27 Shulkin was fired by a Trump tweet, and replaced by Ronny Jackson, the White House physician. Never mind that Jackson has little management experience of any kind, let alone health care experience. Apparently Trump liked Jackson’s glowing report of Trump’s health and that’s good enough.
Shulkin lost no time and wrote an editorial in the NYT about how privatizing the VA would be a really bad idea. Since then other details have emerged about this affair. The White House tried to say that Shulkin resigned. He says that’s nonsense – he was fired by tweet.
Regardless of how one feels about privatizing the VA, this was a really crappy way of handling it. Shulkin says he even talked to Trump that morning and nothing was said about the firing that occurred later that day. And Trump didn’t even have the balls to do it in person or even by phone.
Probably Trump is calculating that if Jackson is corrupt enough to give him such a glowing physical (in spite of some problems) then he will also be corrupt enough to support Trump’s desire to privatize the VA. Jackson has to be confirmed by the Senate and there’s little doubt he will be.
The PPO (Presidential Personnel Office) is responsible for finding and vetting the several thousand politically-appointed positions in the executive branch. A recent article in the Washington Post investigated the workings of this little-known but critical office and their findings are truly depressing. It’s a long article but well worth your time if you want to get an accurate picture of just how incompetently this administration is.
Regardless of ones political leanings or loyalties there has to be some amount of organization competence – even draining the swamp and/or destroying the deep state requires one to be able to manage things. WaPo probably wouldn’t have even bothered assigning two reporters to see what has been going on at the PPO except for the slowness of all these jobs being filled, and often filled by less-than-stellar candidates. Here’s a chart showing how the last 4 administrations were doing at filling the 652 really important jobs.
The problems at the PPO almost all stem from Trump’s poor management style. Chris Christie was working on the transition and had assembled a list of candidates for some 300 jobs. Trump abruptly fired him, Christie says, because Christie opposed hiring Mike Flynn. Looks like Trump made two really poor decisions at one time.
Can you imagine the outcry (and investigations) if Clinton ran things this badly?
In a mad dash to prevent another government shutdown, or yet another continuing resolution, the congress passed a spending bill – emphasis on the word “spending” – some $1.3 T. Yes, that’s a “T” as in Trillion.
You would have thought that a competent president would have been working with congress on such a bill, but apparently he didn’t. The Republicans there knew they needed to pass something, so it looks like they just gathered up everyone’s ideas, except Trump’s wall, and quickly put together a 2,000+ page bill that likely no one had read by the time it was passed. Of course he tried to blame the Democrats, ignoring the fact that Republicans control all the branches of government.
So the bill gets to Trump’s desk and all of a sudden he’s thinking of vetoing it. After a day of chaos he finally signs.
This is incompetence on a massive scale.