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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

# Posted 11:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WALTER REED: I haven't followed the story closely although I know its basis outlines. So let me just toss out a few hypotheses about what's going on, then you all can comment away.

1) The real tragedy may not be what's happening to veterans near Washington, but to the thousands and thousands of veterans scattered in hospitals around the country who remain far from the spotlight even when the headlines are all about Walter Reed.

2) So far, this scandal strikes me as surprisingly apolitical. I listened to Chuck Schumer on ABC and John Murtha on NBC, but neither tried to connect the scandal to the established and credible narrative about this administration's incompetence. (And if Murtha and Schumer wouldn't try to pin on it on Bush, who would?)

3) Precisely because this scandal has not become partisan, our veterans may not get the reforms they deserve. The incentive of a partisan pay off is often what results in action. But there's an outside chance that one or both parties will take a longer view of the subject and recognize that 18 months down the road, having a strong record on veterans affairs will be a major asset.

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Comments:
There is an interesting contrast that is not being made: that of the response of the US government to substandard conditions for veterans, and that response of the UK government when squalid living quarters were revealed last month on the BBC and many papers (and quite honestly, were far worse than anything at Walter Reed). In the US, very senior heads have rolled, and everyone is vowing action. In the UK, you can now hear the crickets...

Some bloggers have commented about the 'accountability' factor and how it differs in the US and the UK. It is an interesting difference between the two countries and cultures.
 
Another interesting, albeit somewhat less dramatic, aspect of this is the overall stress that hundreds of thousands of new vets will/are placing on the system, and the need for greater long term capacity - many new hospitals, doctors etc. David I think you're right that this may be a uniquely non-partisan issue. If I was a dem strategist, however, I would be looking for a way to frame the debate in a manner that makes republicans uncomfortable, perhaps, using the broader universal health care debate. I am sure republicans are trying to do the same though, (perhaps by tying it into war supplementals) so it will certainly be interesting to watch it unfold.
 
Although this country has much to learn from its great neighbor to the north, I think it would be self-destructive for Democrats to connect veterans issues and universal healthcare. That approach would only reinforce the idea that Democrats can't see beyond domestic politics.

I think the most effective approach would be to focus on the national security side of the debate. The Democratic message should be that military strength rests on having soldiers unafraid to risk their lives for their country. That means having soldiers unafraid of what they will face if they return home battered and wounded.

Not that I have any interest in seeing the Democrats act in their own self-interest, but this is a tremendous opportunity for them to overcome their reputation as soft and unserious on defense.
 
I generally agree. Which is why I think Obama can go beyond his star power and has a real opportunity to articulate a new democratic foreign policy. Are the two mutually exclusive though?
As an aside. Dean on CNN last night gave a textbook example of the limits of these linkages, trying desperately and failing miserably, to connect libby with walter reid.
 
Taylor, it isn't that hard to make the linkage from Walter Reed to Dick Cheney. Libby himself is just a water carrier.

The failures at Walter Reed have several causes, but ultimately they are management related. The Army outsourced the support services at Walter Reed as part of the Bush privatization fad. The $120M contract was given to IAP Worldwide Services, one of the Halliburton clique of companies. These are the people who were supposed to clean and maintain Building 18. And deliver ice after Katrina.

David, there is a huge difference between single payer (universal health care) and single provider (VA health care). No one is trying to make this connection.

Also, the Walter Reed issue has three actors. The overtly partisan nature of Democrats versus Republicans and the seething Pentagon which is perhaps best illustrated by a graffito from Iraq that said:

America isn't fighting a war.
The Marine Corps is fighting a war.
America is shopping at the mall.


Lastly, the Walter Reed scandal was first reported by Salon in 2005. You know, the liberal press.
 
This is in the category referred to by military intelligence as "RUMINT," i.e., I heard it from a well-connected source but have no first-hand confirmation. Supposedly, the WRAMC scandal might be one of those cases of "no good deed goes unpunished." The military services used to discharge wounded servicemen who had completed their enlistment term as soon as they went to outpatient status -- turfed to the VA, in other words. But the Army in its generosity decided to offer to keep these discharge-eligible enlisted men on active duty until they were more fully recovered. This apparently overwhelmed the existing outpatient infrastructure, and as GIs said back in the day, "there it is." I'd be curious to know if this is true.
 
Anon: Outsourcing has been going on for twenty years.

Also: IAP given the contract. How about awarded the contract. We are talking about a govermnent contracts. Despite all the bitching and moaning I do not see any whistleblowers testifying that the process was rigged.
Performance after contract award is a separate issue.

Ralph: I think you are correct.

From a purley mental perspective, I would think still being part of the military creates a better feeling. Moving to the VA gives a feeling of permanance.
 
For a view from someone who was there goto Someone you should know
 
Oh my. Dan Quayle sits on the IAP board. And IAP is also a PAC donating 100% to Republicans.

Waxman is holding hearings on this. Thankfully, the Democrats now have a House majority to look into things the Republicans swept under the carpet.
 
One does not raise money, preach to the washed and unwashed or make head lines by visiting grubby hospitals filled with legless and armless vets. The learned senator from NY and his colleague Murtha are part of the problem. David J Kenney
 
One does not raise money, preach to the washed and unwashed or make head lines by visiting grubby hospitals filled with legless and armless vets. The learned senator from NY and his colleague Murtha are part of the problem. David J Kenney
 
Murtha is well known in the military for visiting hospitals. But you wouldn't know that. Bush is well know for never having been to a single military funeral. Perhaps you can explain.
 
Visiting hospitals versus attending funerals? Did you write this because you Bush visits the wounded.
 
Murtha, a decorated Marine veteran of long service, regularly visits the wounded. No fan fair. No photo ops. He's known for that.

Bush occasionally visits the wounded. Again, can you tell me why he's never been to a military funeral? He's had ample opportunity.
 
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