Following a meeting with VA head Eric Shinseki yesterday, President Obama read a statement and took a few (very few) questions on the VA scandal. The White House has posted the text here and video here.
Watching the proceedings live yesterday morning, I thought we have entered the “killer rabbit” phase of Obama’s presidency. While on a fishing trip in Georgia, Jimmy Carter had used a paddle to fend off a crazed “swamp rabbit” trying to climb into his boat. The incident occurred in April 1979, but was not reported until Carter press secretary Jody Powell mentioned it to AP reporter Brooks Jackson that August.
The story symbolized Carter’s descent into a figure of derision even before the Ayatollah had done his work. As Steve Hayward recalls in The Real Jimmy Carter, Mark Russell quipped on PBS: “I didn’t think Carter had a paddle.”
Obama’s handlers sent him out yesterday without a paddle. Obama’s performance must be seen against the uses to which he put the VA during his quest for the presidency. It was a great campaign issue for him. In an August 2007 speech devoted to the subject, for example, Obama called out the VA for the problems that continue to plague the health care facilities under the agency’s jurisdiction. The title of Obama’s speech was “A sacred trust.”
Yesterday Obama flapped his lips to no effect. The Free Beacon highlights “the longest response ever to a yes or no question” (video below), but there was much more where this came from.
With the background of his own words condemning his nonfeasance in office, Obama said: “[W]hen I came into office, I said we would systematically work to fix these problems, and we have been working really hard to address them.” If true, Obama’s statement makes for a startling self-condemnation.
Is it true? I would say that all along Obama has been “talking really hard” to address the issues he campaigned on. The video above really says it all as it captures Obama talking really hard to answer a simple question that could have been easily answered or easily avoided.
UPDATE: John Kass makes much the same point with his usual bite in an excellent Chicago Tribune column.