Monday, May 19, 2014

Where There is No Accountability

Like others, I read the stories of the growing problems within the VA hospital system with great concern.  I am a part of that system, and I recently affiliated with the local clinic here on the Shore.  The reason was that they have an on-site audiologist, and I needed to have my hearing checked and to get updated hearing aids. I am happy to report that everything there was ship shape, none of the horror stories that others have experienced either in the past of currently.

That said, the VA really is in a world of hurt, and the Secretary of the VA--Eric Shinseki--was up on Capitol Hill testifying this week on the mess.  He said he was mad as hell.  He said that there was an investigation in progress.  He said that they were trying to get to the bottom of things and to determine the extent of the problems in the system.

What he didn't say were the words we need to hear more of these days:  "I resign".  Or their corollary, uttered by others, "you're fired".  I have always admired Eric Shinseki.  I think he is a very good man and I think he told the truth and paid for it when he told the Congress that many thousands of more troops would be required in Iraq than were in the war plan.  But there is no taking of accountability in government and there is no demanding of it.  Shinseki should have ended his opening statement by saying "I am in charge, I have failed, and I have offered the President my resignation".  It doesn't matter whether he believes he was doing a good job, or that he was doing everything he possibly could.  The system he oversees is in a state of trauma and its constituents are rapidly losing what little confidence they had in it.  If Secretary Shinseki does not believe he should resign over these incidents, then the President should fire him, and he should make it clear that he is firing him because of this situation.

That Kathleen Sebelius--after the utter failure that was the rollout of Obamacare--could leave office with a Rose Garden ceremony--is simply another instance of this failure of accountability.  Who lost their job over the abandonment of a U.S. Ambassador and three others in Libya?

Government is BROKEN, friends.  It used to be able to accomplish things, to get things done.  It is no longer, and one of the reasons is that we don't demand anything of it.  We cannot acquire ships efficiently, we cannot build large public works projects on budget, we eviscerated our space program and became lackeys to the Soviets Russians, we utterly failed after two years of preparation to launch a website, and we cannot treat Veterans in a timely and humane way.

We need to start.  We need to begin insisting on accountability.  Drew of DrewMusings has a good post today on a simple message that conservatives can get behind--make government work.

I've run this before--twice--about accountability in the Navy.  It is the text of an editorial that appeared in the Wall Street Journal in 1952 after the collision of the USS HOBSON and the USS WASP in which 176 men died (including the CO of the HOBSON). I find it as relevant today as it was then; perhaps more:

"One night past some 30,000 tons of ships went hurtling at each other through the darkness. When they had met, 2,000 tons of ship and 176 men lay at the bottom of the sea in a far off place."

"Now comes the cruel business of accountability. Those who were there, those who are left from those who were there, must answer how it happened and whose was the error that made it happen."

"It is a cruel business because it was no wish to destruction that killed this ship and its 176 men; the accountability lies with good men who erred in judgment under stress so great that it is almost its own excuse. Cruel, because no matter how deep the probe, it cannot change the dead, because it cannot probe deeper than remorse."

"And it is even more cruel still because all around us in other places we see the plea accepted that what is done is done beyond discussion, and that for good men in their human errors there should be afterwards no accountability."

"Everywhere else we are told how inhuman it is to submit men to the ordeal of answering for themselves; to haul them before committees and badger them with questions as to where they were and what they were doing while the ship of state careened from one course to another."

"This probing into the sea seems more merciless because everywhere else we have abandoned accountability. What is done is done and why torture men with asking them afterwards, why?........"

"We are told men should no longer be held accountable for what they do as well as for what they intend. To err is not only human, it absolves responsibility."

"Everywhere else, that is, except on the sea. On the sea there is a tradition older even than the traditions of the country itself and wiser in its age than this new custom. It is the tradition that with responsibility goes authority and with them both goes accountability."

"This accountability is not for the intentions but for the deed. The captain of a ship, like the captain of a state, is given honor and privileges and trust beyond other men. But let him set the wrong course, let him touch ground, let him bring disaster to his ship or to his men, and he must answer for what he has done. He cannot escape...."

"It is cruel, this accountability of good and well-intentioned men. But the choice is that or an end of responsibility and finally as the cruel scene has taught, an end to the confidence and trust in the men who lead, for men will not long trust leaders who feel themselves beyond accountability for what they do."

"And when men lose confidence and trust in those who lead, order disintegrates into chaos and purposeful ships into uncontrollable derelicts."


BigFred said...

I read that at Wisconsin as a MIDN, and never forgot it. I am blessed to have made it as far as I did. Shinseki needs to step down.

JB said...

A couple of random thoughts about the topic of the current VA scandal, in no particular order . . .

If this was a Republican administration, the VA Secretary would've already resigned. That resignation would've come amid a great hue & cry from Democrats for his/her resignation. These are the same Democrats who are absolutely silent now.

Democrats hate the military (there, I said it). Oh, not all Democrats . . . there are of course a few who genuinely love the military (e.g. former Rep. Ike Skelton), but they are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Now, Democrats certainly like to use the military as props for political campaigns, and they certainly understand that they must come across as liking the military. That's why they trot out such things as Michelle Obama & Jill Biden to ask businesses to hire returning Vets, who can't otherwise find a job in their husbands' dismal economy.

That's also why Obama claims to be "outraged" over the latest scandal in his administration . . . he knows he has to say that, even though he doesn't intend to actually do anything about it.

It is worth noting that there was a recent news report (I'm sure the reporter who accidentally let this info loose has already been fired) that a memo was given by the Bush administration to the Obama transition team about suspicions of just this issue w/ the VA. Of course, widespread reporting of this in the main stream media would make Obama's claims that he "just found out about this" look pretty foolish, so don't expect to hear anything further.

Finally, Rush Limbaugh just this afternoon played a compilation of media soundbites of Obama using the same general phrases ("I'm outraged" . . . "need to get to the bottom of this" . . . "mad as hell" . . . blah, blah, blah) for a series of scandals (Benghazi, Fast & Furious, IRS targeting of Conservatives, VA, Obama Care roll-out, etc.). I would suggest that you won't hear it on any main stream media because it makes the Emperor look buck naked.

For what it's worth, Chris Plante (WMAL 9am - noon) played a similar compilation of Obama saying the same thing about a whole host of various groups: "(fill in the blank) is the last thing I think about before I go to bed at night, and the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning." It'd be hilarious if it weren't so sad.

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