Donald Trump has made multiple campaign trips to Montana this election season for a specific reason: the president appears to be on a personal vendetta to defeat Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) for his role in defeating Ronny Jackson’s nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The trouble, as Trump himself acknowledged at a rally in Montana last night, is that his nominee, a former White House physician, didn’t deserve the job. From the transcript:
“I said, ‘Admiral, how would you like to head up the V.A.? I want somebody great. You’re an admiral, you’re a leader.’ And he’s 50 years old. He never had a problem in his whole life. A little bit like Justice Kavanaugh, you know, really a very fine, high-quality, handsome guy. Never had a problem.
“And he said, ‘sir, I had never thought of it, but I’ll do whatever your wish is, sir.’ He didn’t really want it. He didn’t really want. And he might not have been qualified.”
From there, the president went on to argue that Tester went after Jackson “violently” until the doctor withdrew from consideration, which isn’t even close to what happened.
But let’s not brush past that “he might not have been qualified” concession too quickly. This was a striking admission that Trump realizes he chose someone to lead a massive federal bureaucracy, responsible for the well-being of America’s veterans, who had no business accepting the post.
And with this in mind, it seems the president should be less upset with Jon Tester and more upset with Donald Trump. It’s not as if the senator forced the White House to choose an unqualified nominee.
In fact, though this controversy was only six months ago, the president seems to have forgotten what actually happened. We know, for example, that the White House made no real effort to scrutinize Jackson’s background before nominating him; the admiral never even interviewed for the job; and the president appears to have made an impulsive decision “largely out of personal affinity.”
There was no meaningful vetting, no due diligence, and no preparation when the controversies emerged.
What’s more, when serious questions about Jackson’s background did come to the fore, Jon Tester handled things in a bipartisan way – remember, Republicans were not comfortable with Trump’s nominee, either – and there was no political “violence.”
The question the president seems unprepared to answer is simple: if you care so much about veterans, why did you pick someone to lead the V.A. who “might not have been qualified”?