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Author: TriSec    Date: 07/31/2018 09:39:07

Good Morning.

We'll take a look at the political side of veterans today. It's been a week now, while I was away, where Mr. Trump addressed a veteran's group in Kansas City. It didn't go to well. You'll want to note the source of the article.

There are hundreds of local, state, and national organizations representing veterans, but there are only four that really matter: the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the newest, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). These organizations are the 400-pound gorillas of the veterans movement: they have the numbers, power, and money, and they know how to throw their weight around. So it is that candidates scramble for the veterans’ vote by targeting this quartet, meeting with their local chapters, state conferences, and national conventions—like the VFW’s recent confab in Kansas City where last Tuesday Donald Trump appeared to what he thought would be a raucous welcome.

It wasn’t.

While the cameras focused on a crowd that seemed composed of over-the-top Trumpinistas, a number of those attending the speech say there was a more tepid response to his message than the cameras captured—and a much more uneven reception to his patented call-out of the assembled media. Trump’s press attack came in the midst of a defense of his trade policies, which had recently been blamed for costing jobs and dampening farm profits. Trump is nothing if not a counter-puncher, so halfway into his speech he turned to the subject of international trade.

“Oh, folks,” he intoned, “stick with us, stick with us,” and then pointed to the back of the room and the members of the media. “And don’t believe the crap that these people, the fake news…” and he left it at that. There were boos in the room, and some in attendance turned to the cameras. This was red meat for Trump: “I mean, I saw a piece on NBC today. NBC—not just CNN,” he said, continuing: “CNN is the worst…but I saw a piece on NBC—it was heart-throbbing. They were interviewing people—they probably go through 20, and then they pick the one that sounds like the worst. But they went through a group of people. In fact, I wanted to say, ‘I got to do something about this Trump,’” the president joked. The crowd laughed and the boos persisted.

Veterans and the military in general have long been seen as a conservative bastion. While here is one of the few instances that I can accurately say "both sides do it", Republicans have amped up their game in using veterans as props for political rallies. It sounds like they've finally had enough.

But that's not all going on - the V.A. has a new secretary this morning, and his work is cut out for him.

Robert Wilkie took the oath of office Monday to become the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs and take over a department riddled by poor morale among employees and political infighting at the top.

At a White House ceremony, President Donald Trump looked on as Vice President Mike Pence swore in Wilkie, 55, of North Carolina, who served as an intelligence officer in the Navy and holds the rank of colonel in the Air Force reserves.

Wilkie was taking on "a very, very tough and important position," Trump said. "Since day one, my administration has been focused on serving the men and women who make freedom possible, our great veterans. These heroes deserve on the best and they will have it under Robert Wilkie."

Wilkie was coming to the VA from a post at the Pentagon, and Trump joked that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was the only one upset by the move.

"General Mattis is here someplace? He's the only one unhappy about this because I took him away from General Mattis, right? And General Mattis, I'm sorry to have done that, we have no choice," Trump said. "The vets are calling, right?"

Trump said Wilkie had the task of implementing key legislation passed in his administration -- the VA Mission Act expanding private health care options and the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act aimed at speeding up the process of firing poor performers.

Pence also swore in Wilkie's predecessor, Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired by Trump in March. Wilkie became the 10th VA Secretary since the department was made a Cabinet post in 1989.

As was the case with Shulkin, the only holdover from the Obama administration in Trump's Cabinet, Wilkie was not the president's first pick.

Trump nominated Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, his personal physician and head of the White House medical unit to head the VA, but Jackson withdrew his name amid questions about his lack of experience in top management post and never-proven allegations of misconduct involving his job performance at the White House.

Wilkie, who had been serving as undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, was brought over to the VA in early April to serve on an interim basis as VA acting secretary.

Trump appeared to surprise him at an unrelated White House ceremony in May when he announced that Wilkie was his nominee for the permanent post.

As acting secretary, Wilkie indicated he was well aware of the poor morale at the VA and backbiting at the top over the expansion of private health care option for veterans.

"If we don't listen to each other, we won't be able to listen to our veterans and their families," said Wilkie, a Republican who previously served in a number of Capitol Hill and White House staff positions.

"We must have a bottom-up organization," he said when he was named to become acting secretary. "The energy must flow from you who are closest to those we are sworn to serve. It is from you that the ideas we carry to the Congress, the VSOs [veterans service organizations], and to America's veterans will come."

He stressed that he would listen to the rank-and-file. "Anyone who sits in this chair and tells you he has the answers is in the wrong business," he said.

I have little hope for any changes in the agency. Mr. Wilkie is a holdover from the Bush era, and served throughout the Obama administration where he was apparently little noted nor long remembered.

And we'll cut it short here this morning. I've just heard on the news that there is a pipe break in Watertown Square, and the major alternate route to the Massachusetts Turnpike project is also closed this morning. (Main Street). I've got to get on the move.


14 comments (Latest Comment: 07/31/2018 19:34:27 by livingonli)
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