Trump Supports V.A. Pick Dr. Ronny Jackson, While Driving Bus Over Ronny-Jackson-Shaped Bump
'I'm like this without Ambien or anything else, believe me'
Donald Trump just wants everyone to know that Ronny Jackson is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being he's ever met, and also that no sane person would ever want to go through the living hell Dr. Jackson will have to face as the nominee to be Trump's secretary of Veterans Affairs. After blithely tossing Jackson under a bus at a press conference yesterday (the White House keeps several parked on the grounds for that purpose), Trump met with Jackson to give him a pep talk, and the White House now insists it will fight for Jackson's nomination no matter what, or at least until after 5:00 Eastern on Friday.
In response to a question at a presser with his Best French Friend Forever Emanuel Macron, Trump took several rambling minutes of blaming Democrats for being the worst people ever, and incidentally explaining why Jackson is just an extraordinary guy, the absolute best, and if he has any sense he'll say the hell with this nomination stuff, because jackals in the press are so mean:
Ever the supportive backer, Trump said that it was Jackson's decision whether to go forward with the nomination, and said he'd asked Jackson, "What do you need this for?" as if Jackson were the one who'd stupidly put himself forward for a job for which he's hideously unqualified:
I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't do it. What does he need it for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren't thinking nicely about our country? I really don't think personally he should do it, but it's totally his — I would stand behind him — totally his decision.
The whole process, Trump said, was simply "too ugly, and it’s too disgusting." It really made us wonder what sort of monster would subject a good man like Dr. Jackson to all that. If only people in Washington would think nicely about America. It's nice to be nice to the nice.
Not surprisingly, Trump met with Jackson later in the day to promise Jackson he would absolutely back the doctor's nomination, you bet, and that Jackson would get a chance to present his side of the story in a confirmation hearing, according to two White House officials who spoke to CBS News. CBS did not mention whether the smell of diesel fumes from an idling autobus was evident during the meeting.
Yesterday afternoon also brought a fairly incredible interview on NPR with Senator Jon Tester, the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, in which Tester outlined concerns that had been brought to the committee by current and former members of the military who had worked with Jackson:
The three biggest issues involved allegations that Jackson dispensed medications recklessly, that he drank heavily on overseas trips, and that he was abusive to underlings and responsible for a hostile work environment in the White House Medical Unit (if that last is true, we can see why Trump might consider him a kindred spirit).
The prescription claims, Tester said, involved Jackson giving out pills on foreign trips, but not, he emphasized, opioids:
Well, most of them are the ones that make you want to sleep and then make you wake up. And these are basically doled out and by the way we had 20 military folks and retired military folks tell us these stories. These were doled out on overseas trips where there's a lot of time zone changes. And were pretty much doled out, as, you know, somebody ones to go to sleep, here's a pill.
Tester added in a later interview on CNN that several people had said Jackson's nickname around the White House was the "candy man," and not because of his uncanny impression of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. Reports to committee staff said Jackson would
"go down the aisle way of the airplane and say, 'All right, who wants to go to sleep?' And hand out the prescription drugs like they were candy ... and put them to sleep and then give them the drugs to wake them back up again."
Tester's staff told CNN that Jackson would hand out Ambien and Provigil.
Yr Wonkette isn't entirely certain how outrageous this is supposed to be; considering the high-stress agendas of White House staff on foreign trips, this has a sort of "thus it ever has been" feel to it? Those are the sleep aids and stimulants that fuel no small number of high-achieving college students during finals week, no? We also don't have any trouble at all imagining political staffers making adolescent jokes about a physician as a "candy man," because they are dorks. Yes, this is your Wonkette shrugging at shocking news of drug use. [Editrix here, being more of a dork: I don't think handing out pep pills is NBD, but that's just me, child of a guy who had a personal Dr. Feelgood, and it sucked.]
The drinking stuff, however, seems like more of a concern. Tester said Jackson had allegedly been sauced during overseas trips:
Once again, it was on travel and he is the physician for the president. And in the previous administration, we were told stories where he was repeatedly drunk while on duty, where his main job was to take care of the most powerful man in the world. That's not acceptable.
Jackson had denied to Senator Jerry Moran, another member of the committee, that he'd ever had a drink at all while traveling; Tester said the military folks making the allegations had come forward to the committee, and that the committee had to follow up. He also said that as far as he knew, there weren't any written reports from the time to back up the claims. The New York Times reported Jackson was sometimes too blotto (allegedly) to even do his job:
On one trip during Barack Obama’s presidency, White House staff needed to reach Dr. Jackson for medical reasons and found him passed out in his hotel room after a night of drinking, Tester aides said. The staff members took the medical supplies they were looking for without waking Dr. Jackson.
CNN reports that on another foreign trip with Obama, Jackson (allegedly) drunkenly pounded on the hotel room door of a female employee and yelled so loudly that Secret Service agents took him back to his own room so he wouldn't wake the president from his dreams of taking all the guns and installing a caliphate in the USA. According to one "source familiar" with the matter, that incident was reported to higher-ups in the military, so maybe there's a record out there somewhere.
Finally, there's the stuff that -- were it not for the fact that Jackson is already wholly without experience running a large bureaucracy -- really suggests Jackson doesn't play well with others: He's just a crappy manager who doesn't run a happy ship. Tester told NPR that Jackson was responsible for setting a nasty example in his own office:
I think I mean some of the exact words that were used by the folks who we talked to were, abusive towards staff, very explosive personality. Belittles the folks underneath him, the staff he oversaw, screamed toward staff, basically creating an environment where the staff felt that they needed to walk around egg shells around him.
Similar concerns were also raised in a 2012 inspector general's report, according to the Associated Press. The AP reports the IG determined
Jackson and a rival physician exhibited "unprofessional behaviors" as they engaged in a power struggle over the White House medical unit. The six-page report by the Navy's Medical Inspector General found a lack of trust in the leadership and low morale among staff members, who described the working environment as "being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce."
"There is a severe and pervasive lack of trust in the leadership that has deteriorated to the point that staff walk on 'eggshells,'" the assessment found.
We have to hand it to Trump: he has a real knack for finding people who behave like Donald Trump. Wonder if Ronny Jackson has ever stiffed any contractors?
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