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Trump defends VA pick, leaves opening for exit

President Donald Trump said it is up to his embattled pick to lead the Veterans Affairs agency to determine whether he wants to continue his confirmation progress.CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports.

Posted: Apr 25, 2018 11:45 AM
Updated: Apr 25, 2018 11:45 AM

In 2005, President George W. Bush stunned his supporters by nominating his White House counsel and former personal lawyer, Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court. While Miers was beloved by staffers inside the White House, even right-wing commentators considered Bush's decision reckless.

"However nice, helpful, prompt and tidy she is, Harriet Miers isn't qualified to play a Supreme Court justice on 'The West Wing' let alone be a real one," Ann Coulter wrote at the time.

Meanwhile, Democrats attacked the pick as an example of cronyism.

After what Bush later called "three terrible weeks," Miers phoned the president. It was late at night and Bush was working in his office in the Treaty Room. Miers told Bush she wanted him to withdraw her nomination.

"I put my friend in an impossible situation," Bush later recounted in his memoir, "Decision Points."

"If I had it to do over again, I would not have thrown Harriet to the wolves of Washington."

Bush soon chose Samuel Alito, who had elite legal credentials. Conservatives cheered the pick, and though Alito still had a rough confirmation process, the Senate confirmed him.

The Miers debacle has served ever since as a cautionary tale for presidents. The main lessons were that presidents should pick personnel for top positions who were a) at least minimally qualified and b) not viewed as cronies.

As with so many lessons of previous presidencies, the Miers episode seems quaint in the age of President Donald Trump. Trump has appointed his daughter and son-in-law to senior positions in the West Wing. His picks for top cabinet positions have been sent to the Senate with little or no vetting, putting Congress more firmly in charge of a scrubbing process to which the White House previously paid a great deal of attention.

The Presidential Personnel Office, which is in charge of recruiting potential administration officials, has been hobbled by inexperience and incompetence. In a devastating investigation, The Washington Post recently reported that the leadership of the office, rife with cronyism, includes "a college dropout with arrests for drunken driving and bad checks and a Marine Corps reservist with arrests for assault, disorderly conduct, fleeing an officer and underage drinking."

So few could have been surprised that Trump chose Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, to run the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs. Like Miers, Jackson was well-liked by White House staffers. Like Miers, both the right and the left found the pick shocking and embarrassing.

Given the impulsiveness of the decision, it was predictable that Jackson, the subject of apparently no White House vetting, would run into trouble in the Senate. On Monday, a hearing on his nomination was canceled amid vague allegations of professional misconduct and it became apparent Jackson's nomination was in grave danger.

On Tuesday afternoon, Trump delivered what may have been the final blow. In a rambling stream-of-consciousness answer to a question about Jackson's status, Trump, as he often does, narrated the drama over his VA pick as if he wasn't the president who nominated him.

"I said to Dr. Jackson, 'What do you need it for?'" Trump told reporters. "So we'll see what happens. I don't want to put a man through who's not a political person. I don't want to put a man through a process like this. It's too ugly and too disgusting. So we'll see what happens. He'll make a decision."

All of this was Trump's fault: he picked someone without the proper experience or vetting. Then, when the decision blew up, he shrugged and wondered in public why his nominee would want to be put through such a process in the first place. He spoke like a bystander who had nothing to do with it.

If Jackson withdraws, as seems likely, the difference between how Bush and Trump handled their missteps is instructive. Bush stuck with her until she withdrew on her own, never hinting in public that he had made a mistake. (Miers stayed in her job at the White House for more than another year.) He later took responsibility for putting her through the ordeal. Bush's sin was extreme loyalty to a personal friend.

With the Jackson pick, Trump has managed to be simultaneously reckless, thoughtless and disloyal, by publicly undermining his friend at the first hint of trouble.

To borrow Bush's analogy, it's as if Trump fed someone to a pack of wolves and then asked him why he wanted to be eaten alive in the first place.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 450762

Reported Deaths: 6079
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin935111486
Ramsey40220742
Dakota33243348
Anoka31118366
Washington20282231
Stearns17957188
St. Louis13777244
Scott1203597
Wright11688106
Olmsted1062075
Sherburne823966
Carver698338
Clay654681
Rice613969
Kandiyohi555772
Blue Earth544833
Crow Wing486877
Otter Tail459367
Chisago455036
Benton421587
Winona391948
Douglas376666
Nobles372446
Mower369429
Goodhue351259
Polk330059
McLeod326546
Beltrami313248
Morrison312945
Lyon303338
Becker286939
Itasca285943
Isanti283241
Carlton282243
Steele275810
Pine267814
Freeborn249523
Todd232530
Nicollet226437
Brown215834
Mille Lacs214745
Le Sueur211716
Cass208424
Meeker200633
Waseca190716
Wabasha17293
Martin171326
Roseau166117
Hubbard149938
Redwood140627
Houston139014
Renville137840
Dodge13624
Chippewa131732
Cottonwood127818
Fillmore12535
Wadena120417
Rock110612
Sibley10897
Aitkin108533
Faribault107416
Watonwan10678
Pennington100315
Kanabec98018
Pipestone95523
Yellow Medicine93916
Murray8995
Jackson86310
Swift83818
Pope7425
Marshall70315
Stevens7038
Clearwater68614
Lac qui Parle65716
Lake65615
Wilkin6299
Koochiching59910
Lincoln4892
Big Stone4663
Unassigned43968
Grant4298
Norman4248
Mahnomen4137
Kittson37220
Red Lake3184
Traverse2553
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1150

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 308737

Reported Deaths: 4391
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46313460
Linn17916278
Scott15694167
Black Hawk13964242
Woodbury13064179
Johnson1220051
Dubuque11504157
Pottawattamie9086114
Dallas901872
Story875536
Webster470677
Cerro Gordo469972
Sioux458757
Clinton455065
Warren452039
Marshall429262
Buena Vista395230
Muscatine393078
Des Moines389243
Plymouth352269
Wapello347598
Jasper328559
Lee321132
Marion307252
Jones272949
Henry265831
Carroll257434
Bremer248048
Crawford233124
Washington221333
Boone221017
Benton210950
Mahaska196337
Jackson193931
Tama189559
Dickinson188129
Kossuth177744
Delaware174736
Clay170721
Wright166024
Fayette164123
Buchanan161023
Hamilton161030
Winneshiek159120
Harrison157362
Hardin156130
Cedar154419
Clayton153049
Butler149824
Page145415
Floyd140536
Cherokee139527
Mills138016
Lyon137033
Poweshiek134124
Hancock130824
Allamakee130029
Iowa126722
Calhoun12309
Grundy121927
Jefferson121625
Madison12169
Winnebago120829
Mitchell116436
Louisa115530
Cass114743
Chickasaw113312
Appanoose111540
Emmet111232
Sac111215
Union110223
Humboldt105819
Shelby104027
Guthrie103624
Franklin103118
Unassigned10000
Palo Alto91411
Montgomery87224
Keokuk85826
Howard84819
Monroe81419
Clarke8017
Pocahontas77811
Ida75430
Davis69721
Greene6977
Adair69320
Lucas6619
Monona65017
Osceola64510
Worth6154
Taylor5969
Fremont5206
Van Buren49914
Decatur4944
Ringgold44611
Audubon4188
Wayne41721
Adams2983
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