Yesterday was supposed to be the day confirmation hearings began for Navy Admiral Ronny Jackson, a White House physician and Donald Trump's choice to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Instead, it was his last day as a cabinet nominee.
This morning, Jackson issued a statement announcing he's withdrawing from consideration. The statement read in part:
"Going into this process, I expected tough questions about how to best care for our veterans, but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity."The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated. If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years.... Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this president and the important issue we must be addressing -- how we give the best care to our nation's heroes."
While Jackson denies the allegations raised against him in recent days, the scope and seriousness of those claims intensified yesterday, to the point that his nomination became unsustainable.
Even before claims of wrongdoing emerged, Jackson's nomination was problematic -- he lacked the qualifications needed for the cabinet post and has no experience overseeing a large organization -- but as lawmakers heard from many of the doctor's former colleagues, Senate Republicans started to balk.
The president turned to Fox News this morning to blame Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, for the demise of Jackson's nomination, but like so many of Trump's claims, that doesn't make a lot of sense. For one thing, concerns about Jackson were bipartisan.
For another, if anyone's to blame for this fiasco, it's Trump and his White House team.
Indeed, 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.
Jackson's brief nomination became an embarrassing debacle, but it was an easily avoidable one. All the White House had to do was take the process seriously, recognize the importance of finding a capable and qualified VA leader, work with lawmakers who were eager to find a consensus choice, and govern like grown-ups.
Instead, Trump tapped the guy who said nice things about him on television. The fact that the president is already trying to avoid responsibility for this mess suggests he's learned nothing from the experience and is quite likely to make the same mistake again.