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Outgoing VA Chief Takes Parting Shot at White House

David Shulkin says he was forced out over privatization; new pick is 'Doc' Ronny Jackson
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2018 10:36 AM CDT

(Newser) – That President Trump fired his embattled Veterans Affairs secretary on Wednesday is no big surprise. After all, David Shulkin had been on the outs with the White House over reports of improper spending and policy differences. Far more surprising is Trump's pick to replace him: White House physician Ronny Jackson. Why? Because while Jackson is a well-regarded Navy physician, having served the last three presidents, he has no managerial experience—and the VA is the second biggest federal department, reports Politico. A look at related coverage:

  • Parting shot: Shulkin isn't exactly leaving on a quiet note. In a New York Times op-ed, the only Obama-era holdover on Trump's Cabinet says he was forced out because the president and his supporters "saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed." He adds: "As I prepare to leave government, I am struck by a recurring thought: It should not be this hard to serve your country."

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  • Key for Jackson: Pretty much every story on Jackson points out that Trump loved how the doctor assured the public back in January that Trump was not only in good health but was "very sharp." Trump frequently tells aides that he's a big admirer of the 50-year-old Jackson, whom he calls "The Doc," per the Washington Post.
  • Loyalty: The pick meshes with Trump's preference to surround himself with familiar faces, writes Jill Colvin at the AP. "And it shows Jackson has succeeded at arguably the most important measure in the Trump administration: winning the president's trust," she notes.
  • Too negative? An assessment at Fox News makes the case that the "anti-Trump media" is going over the top in criticizing the pick.
  • His bio: Newsweek highlights some key parts of Jackson's biography. He joined the Navy in 1995 and "has a long history of combat medicine."
  • The concern: The VA is responsible for more than 9 million vets and more than 1,700 health facilities, prompting this reaction from AMVETS chief Joe Chenelly: "The administration needs to be ready to prove that he's qualified to run such a massive agency, a $200 billion bureaucracy." Axios notes that the White House is conscious of the concern and wouldn't mind a drawn-out confirmation process while the well-regarded interim chief, Robert Wilkie, runs the show.
  • Privatization: Trump and supporters such as Charles and David Koch want to privatize the medical care provided to vets to some extent, and the Post sees this as the biggest issue Jackson will face at his confirmation hearing. His views on the subject, or on other policy issues, aren't known. "This whole business is not about David Shulkin," says Bernie Sanders, who sits on the panel that will grill Jackson. "It's about the influence of the Koch brothers over the Trump administration and their desire to privatize VA." Vox says the issue "speaks to a larger clash of worldviews between left and right over how health care overall ought to work."
(Read more Ronny Jackson stories.)

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