The Slow-Motion VA Scandal

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 9 2014 4:56 PM

The Slow-Motion VA Scandal

The story started on May 6, when a senator the political press corps doesn't often write about called for the head of a cabinet member who isn't often in the news. Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran went to the Senate floor to demand the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. "Veterans are waiting for action and yet the VA continues to operate in the same old bureaucratic fashion," said Moran, "settling for mediocrity and continued disservice to our nation’s heroes."

He wasn't the first on this beat. The American Legion had called for Shinseki to go, too, as had Concerned Veterans of America. The latter group was showing up in media articles with no assignation, but it's pretty avowedly conservative, founded by Pete Hegseth who previous led the pro-surge, pro-Bush "Vets for Freedom." Democrats did not see a stampede coming.

"I'm very unhappy with the VA," said Sen. John McCain on Tuesday, "but we ought to see the completion of the investigation. We're now finding other VA facilities where there have been questions raised that."

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In other words, no pitchfork-gang for him, not yet. Asked moments later about Shinseki, Sen. Harry Reid stuck by him in political terms, reminding reporters that Shineski had been a target of the right when he questioned the strategy and army size in the run-up to invading Iraq.

But the outrage had started in McCain's state. NBC News had been investigating failures at the VA, and published a powerful story about how as many as 40 people had died while waiting for the Phoenix VA hospital to treat them. CVA held a rally in Phoenix on Wednesday, and by Friday McCain was tweeting this:

Point being: This is a slow-burning scandal and a slow-simmering outrage, but expect to hear about it soon.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.