Friday, May 09, 2014

Spin, brothers, spin!





Starting in the US where this morning the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a brief business meeting.  The Committee Chair is US House Rep Jeff Miller, US House Rep Mike Michaud is the Ranking Member.

Committee Chair Jeff Miller:  I would like to take care of one item of business this morning.  My hearing a motion for the issuance of a subpoena to the Dept of Veterans Affairs to produce e-mails and other written correspondence related to the investigation of the Phoenix VA Medical Center.  It's unfortunate that we have to come to this decision but we did not do this without some substantial justification.  The last few weeks have been a model of VA stonewalling which precipitated the need for this subpoena.  First on April 24th, our staff was briefed and informed of an alternate wait list and how that list was subsequently destroyed.  We made follow up phone calls to VA OCLA [Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs] beginning on the 28th asking for additional information about the list.  However, we didn't get a response back on the 28th.  So we called back on the 29th and got no response on the 29th.  So we called again on April 30th and spoke directly to Assistant Secretary Joan Mooney but still got no response. Look, this failure to provide information led to my first letter stating that the Committee would pursue a subpoena if we were not provided with the information this Committee had requested.  Yesterday, May 7th, I received a response from VA that does not -- does not -- fully answer the very simple questions that I asked.  Therefore, the time for requests for this matter is over.  Today, we'll vote to issue a subpoena.  It's a historic vote.  This Committee has voted once before to issue a subpoena the first time ever in the history and we worked with VA and actually we did not deliver that subpoena but we got the information that we were asking for.  But I trust the VA will have the good sense to not further delay and ignore the request that this Committee has made. The subpoena will cover e-mails and written correspondence sent since the 9th of April, 2014 at 8:45 a.m. to or from Secretary Eric Shinseki, Dr. Robert Petzel Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Thomas Lynch Assistant Secretary for Health for Clinical Operations and Management, Mr. Will Gunn General Counsel, or any other representative of the Office of General Counsel, Ms. Joan Mooney Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs, Dr. Ron Maurer Director Congressional Liaison Service, and Mr. Aakash Bhatt Congressional Relations Officer or Mr. Michael Huff Congressional Relations Officer. The scope of this subpoena will encompass all e-mails and other written correspondence where these parties discuss the destruction of an alternate wait list regardless of which name it was given and which form in which it was kept.  Pursuant to Rule 11 Clause 2M1B of the House of Representatives in Rule G Clause 3 of this Committee, we have a motion before us that's at the desk and I will ask that the clerk will read the motion.

Clerk: Ranking Member Michaux moves that the Committee authorize the issuance of the subpoena to Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the US Dept of Veterans Affairs for the Dept of Veterans Affairs to produce all e-mails and correspondence sent between April 9, 2014 9:45 a.m. and May 8, 2014 6:00 p.m. which address in whole or in part the destruction or disapearance of an interum wait list with regard to the Carl T. Hagen Medical Affairs VA Center located in Phoenix, Arizona in which Secretary Shinseki, Dr. Robert Petzel Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Thomas Lynch Assistant Secretary for Health for Clinical Operations and Management, Mr. Will Gunn General Counsel, or any other representative of the Office of General Counsel, Ms. Joan Mooney Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs, Dr. Ron Maurer Director Congressional Liaison Service, and Mr. Aakash Bhatt Congressional Relations Officer or Mr. Michael Huff Congressional Relations Officer -- or parties to or referenced within -- e-mails and written correspondence

Chair Jeff Miller:  Members, you've heard the motion.  Do I hear a second?  Motion's been moved and properly seconded.  I will open the floor for the Ranking Member to make a statement and would ask that if any other members have a statement that they be very brief because everybody has a very, very tight schedule this morning.  I understand.  The Ranking Member is recognized.

Ranking Member Mike Michaud: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.  I think we all can agree that quality, safe, accessible health care has always been a priority of this Committee and I believe that has not changed today.  We have over the past years asked the VA for information that has not been forthcoming.  Frustrations remain high among Committee members. The Chairman sent a letter on May 1, 2014 requesting the answers to two questions. The response we received yesterday from VA was, in my view, insufficient.  The subpoena we will authorize today is limited in scope and it  narrowly is constructed in order not to interfere or impede the ongoing IG [Inspector General] investigation.  At the end of the day, we all are waiting for the results of the investigation to be provided to us so that we can be in a position to take action.  We need to fix the problems not only in Phoenix but across the VA system.  I was pleased to hear that the Veterans Administration will complete a nation wide access review to ensure that employees have a full understanding of VA policy and that they will conduct a national face-to-face audit at all the clinics and every VA medical center.  And I understand that Ms. [Ann] Kirkpatrick, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation recently sent a letter calling for VA to undertake a similar action in light of the numerous problems throughout the system.  So I want to thank you very much, Ms. Kirkpatrick.  So with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time. 

Chair Jeff Miller:  Thank you, Mr. Michaud, for your cooperation.  I would ask is there any other member that would like to make a statement?  Very well.  All those in favor of the motion to issue the subpoena will say I.

All Present:  I.

Chair Jeff Miller:  All those opposed will say "No." [Silence.]  The motion carries.  And I am now going to sign the subpoena for the production of e-mails and written correspondence and hereby direct its issuance forthwith.  This concludes our business meeting for today. This meeting is adjourned. 

This is a major move.  The vote was unanimous on the motion.  There was a hearing today, an important one, that followed the above.  We may cover that tomorrow.

However, I promised we would address the issue of the US Ambassador to Iraq when it became verifiable.

Dropping back to the April 23rd snapshot:

On the topic of Stephen Beecroft, Laura Rozen (Backchannel) reports the word is Beecroft will be nominated to be the US Ambassador to Egypt shortly.
That would be a deeply stupid move.  So it's probably going to happen.  If it does, we'll go into how stupid it is.  Until then, we'll just note the rumor.

It's now reported everywhere.

So let's turn to Iraq and the war on women -- the real war, not the faux war, on women.

It's now official, Robert Stephen Beecroft is nominated to be the US Ambassador to Egypt.

The problem with that?

He's the US Ambassador to Iraq currently.

Iraq needs stability and unity and you can't approach it with chaos.  If you approach it with chaos you amplify the ongoing chaos.

When Barack Obama was sworn in as US President, he asked the US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker to remain in the position while he found someone to nominate.

Crocker did.

Barack wasted that opportunity by nominating Chris Hill who was all wrong for the post, whose employment file made clear his problems would make him unfit for the post, whose confirmation hearing was a non-stop embarrassment.

As everyone knows, Hill was manic and tended to crater in the afternoons.  A full day's work was beyond him.  He also had a problem with taste.  For example, the Halloween Party he attended while Ambassador?  Going with a woman -- not his wife -- dressed as Jacqueline Kennedy -- with fake blood -- on the day JFK was shot?  Not tasteful, to put it mildly.  But him dressing as a Secret Service agent to accompany her?

Chris Hill was trash.

Instead of focusing on Iraq, he tended to explode about what a sewer he thought Iraq actually was -- tended to explode in the presence of Iraqis working with the US Embassy in Baghdad.

Way to create an impression, Chris.

He also was more concerned about press coverage -- specifically he had penis envy over the press coverage Gen Ray Odierno received.  Odierno was a press favorite (still is) and that's because he played it straight.  He was unassuming (especially a relief to the press after David Petraeus) and he was focused on the mission.  He made for good copy.

Chris wanted to be a media star so he whined about Odierno's press to the White House repeatedly until the White House asked Ray to please stop speaking to the press because it upset Chris so much.

All this focus on everything but his job led Chris to be a lousy ambassador.

It was Ray Odierno, not Chris Hill, who wondered at the start of 2010, what happens if Nouri al-Maliki doesn't win the election?  What happens if he doesn't win and he refuses to step down?

That's exactly what happened.  Take Odierno to the races with you and let him pick the horse.

But it would be a legitimate concern even if it hadn't ended up coming true.  It was worth considering.

But Chris Hill wouldn't and Chris Hill dismissed it and Chris Hill cut Odierno out of the loop.  After the March 2010 elections, Odierno would speak with then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who would then bring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton into the conversation and the two of them (Gates and Clinton) would go to Barack and tell him he needed to listen to Odierno.

Once he did, Barack realized Chris Hill had to go.

Chris was a huge mistake.  He was Barack's choice.  I don't care for Barack's leadership.  But anyone can make a mistake and, to his credit, Barack was willing to move quickly on this.

Which is how James Jeffrey became the next US Ambassador to Iraq.


Briefly he was the US Ambassador.

Barack's next ambassador to Iraq was Robert Stephen Beecroft.

All of this happened in his first term.

Three different ambassadors for one country.

That goes to incompetence.

That's before you consider that the country is Iraq which has gotten worse and worse in terms of security, in terms of politics, in terms of the treatment of women, in every term you can measure.

From January 2009 to January 2013 -- Barack's first term, Iraq had three different US ambassadors.

In his second term, he's already changing ambassadors again.

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