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EDITORIAL: Jackson nomination does not serve our nation or veterans

The Daily Star - 4/26/2018

April 26--The revelations this week about Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump's nominee to head the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, are just another in a troubling pattern of character problems among those with whom Trump surrounds himself.

Jackson's nomination is in peril after allegations surfaced about his conduct in his current and past jobs, where he is accused of over-prescribing drugs, drinking on duty and creating a hostile work environment.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee -- led by Republicans -- abruptly postponed Jackson's confirmation hearing, which had been set for Wednesday.

A watchdog report requested in 2012 and reviewed by The Associated Press found that Jackson and a rival physician exhibited "unprofessional behaviors" as they engaged in a power struggle over the White House medical unit. The six-page report by the Navy's Medical Inspector General found a lack of trust in the leadership and low morale among staff members, who described the working environment as "being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce."

CNN reported on Wednesday that Jackson, during an overseas trip in 2015, was intoxicated and banged on the hotel room door of a female employee, according to four sources familiar with the allegation.

The incident became so noisy, one source familiar with the allegation told CNN, that the Secret Service stopped him out of concern that he would wake then-President Barack Obama.

Two sources who previously worked in the White House Medical Unit described the same incident, with one former staffer telling CNN that it was "definitely inappropriate, in the middle of the night," and that it made the woman uncomfortable.

Trump is standing behind his man. Sort of.

During a White House news conference, Trump called the White House doctor "one of the finest people that I have met," and said the criticism is unfair.

He left an out, though, questioning why Jackson would want to put himself through the confirmation fight.

"I wouldn't do it," Trump said. "What does he need it for? What do you need this for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren't thinking nicely about our country?"

Trump has never seemed to understand that those politicians were elected by voters of states or districts to represent them and exercise the duties delegated to them by the Constitution.

Their job is not to rubber-stamp Trump's desires. Confirmation is not a formality.

Even before all this stuff hit the fan, there were questions about Jackson's ability to move directly from his post as the president's personal physician to the leadership of a massive federal department.

Many were unhappy that the previous VA secretary, David Shulkin, was dismissed, apparently because he resisted moves to privatize veterans services. Such privatization would enrich investors, some argue, while weakening the agency that cares for military veterans.

The nomination of Jackson to head such a huge bureaucracy -- with no apparent applicable experience -- did little to assuage those fears. It also left many on the conservative side of the spectrum wondering if this is the best we can do for our veterans.

Jackson's main qualification appears to be that he stood at a podium and gushed about Trump's health after the president's official physical.

"He's like central casting -- like a Hollywood star," Trump said of Jackson, after the doctor's performance at a news conference, announcing the results of the physical.

A competent administration would have done a deeper dive into Jackson's background and rejected him as a nominee before he got this far. A president concerned with the welfare of our veterans would have demanded it.

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(c)2018 The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.)

Visit The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.) at www.thedailystar.com

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