Trump Bails on VA Nominee

Everyone was surprised when Trump nominated Ronny Jackson, his personal presidential doctor, to run the Veterans Administration. He may be a fine doctor, but he has no experience running a large bureaucracy, much less one that spends almost $200 billion in tax money every year. Now he has bailed on his own nominee. Again.

President Trump said Tuesday that he is standing behind Ronny L. Jackson to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, but suggested his embattled nominee should drop out because of what Trump characterized as “ugly allegations” that have surfaced.

“I don’t want to put a man through a process like this,” Trump said when asked about Jackson’s nomination during a joint news conference at the White House with French President Emmanuel Macron. “It’s too ugly, and it’s too disgusting.”

Trump said a decision about whether to proceed would be left to Jackson.

“I said to Dr. Jackson, what do you need it for?” Trump said. “To be abused by a bunch of politicians? … If I was him … I wouldn’t do it.”

This is classic Trump — he’s pulling the plug on someone who should never have been nominated in the first place, but he can’t admit he screwed up so he’s putting it all on the nominee to pull out and blame others for it. But the argument he’s making about the ugly process applies to anyone he would nominate (or would, if the claim was true, which it isn’t). Very few VA nominees face the kind of scrutiny Jackson has gotten, but that’s because he just isn’t qualified for the job. And the whole thing is part of a much bigger problem, as James Hohmann accurately notes.

A lack of due diligence is a feature, not a bug, of Trumpism. Trump promised to hire “the best and most serious people” as a candidate, but there’s been historically high turnover, an enormous number of withdrawn nominations and many of his appointees who made it through now operate under clouds of scandal. The Rob Porter fiasco spotlighted how many people were operating at the highest levels of government with interim security clearances and incomplete background checks…

But this has been a constant struggle since Trump took office. Recall Andy Puzder’s failed nomination to be secretary of labor. Several Trump nominees who couldn’t get through the Republican-controlled Senate still work in government because they were shifted into jobs that don’t require confirmation.

In his rush to remake the courts, Trump has put up many people for judgeships who would have been very unlikely to get nominated if they went through a more rigorous vetting process. There was the guy in Alabama who had defended the Ku Klux Klan, the guy in Texas who said transgender children are proof that “Satan’s plan is working,” and the nominee for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims who called Justice Anthony Kennedy “a judicial prostitute.”

And this reflects Trump’s disinterest in being thoughtful and his constant desire to choose “gut instinct” over careful consideration. If he likes you, he’ll appoint you, whether you’re qualified or not. That is true for positions of people close around him. For positions throughout the government where he is unlikely to know anyone or deal with them directly, like all those judgeships, he just casually accepts anyone recommended by someone he likes.

No need to do a thorough vetting on them. If they blow up in his face, he’ll do what he always does and blame everyone else for it. He’ll attack those who refused to vote for them as being unreasonable even if they raise perfectly reasonable questions. Personal responsibility simply doesn’t exist in Trumpworld. If reality isn’t to his liking, he just declares a different reality and the clueless halfwits who follow him accept it as true. That’s how he’s lived his entire life.

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