VIDEO: Obama Accepts Eric Shinskei's Resignation

Joel Anderson  |

The political firestorm that was sparked by revelations that veterans had died while waiting for care at a VA facility in Arizona has claimed its first victim. At least its first political victim, that is.

On Friday, Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki, himself a wounded veteran, offered his resignation after a maelstrom of political pressure appeared to reach critical mass. A chorus of critics form both sides of the aisle called for his head and, as is often the case in these sorts of scandals, they ultimately got their wish. In the video below from CNN, President Obama addresses reporters regarding Shinseki's decision to offer his resignation.

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But it does raise a deeper question: is Shinseki just a sacrificial lamb? The VA is a massive bureacracy that's beset with many of the problems a massive bureacracy is beset with, the sort of problems that have persisted for years and go far deeper than any one person. And while no one is arguing that the scandal in Arizona is in any way acceptable (at least I HOPE no one is), there also hasn't been a lot clearly said about what, specifically, was Shinseki's failing as a lead administrator that may have allowed it to happen.

President Obama continued in this press conference to point out that Shinseki had accomplished a lot during his tenure, including a 24 percent reduction in homelessness rates among veterans. What's more, he appeared to believe that Shinseki's firing was due entirely to the mounting political pressure and not Shinseki's abilities as an administrator.

If Shinseki is in fact a capable administrator falling victim to a political scandal, does that mean the VA is losing its leader at precisely the time it might have the attention and political will to actually address some of its ongoing, deeply set issues? Certainly, that characterization may be wildly inappropriate, and more about how the system failed is likely to see the light of day in the coming months, but for now, Shinseki appears to be the scapegoat dujour. I just hope that criticism of how the VA has failed our veterans ultimately creates more change than just a handful of angry firings.


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