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"I like to call him 'President Svelte'...that doesn't sound Russian, does it?"


Donald Trump has finally given David Shulkin the heave-ho as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, thanks mostly to his genuinely awful travel scandal -- or at least that's the official story. As our own Five Dollar Feminist pointed out way back in mid-February -- which feels like years ago in the Trump Era -- the travel scandal also made beautiful cover for the Trumpers embedded in the VA to push for Shulkin to be ousted, so they could roll forward with their exciting plan to privatize the VA health system.

In a seriously feisty NYT op-ed today, Shulkin says that's pretty much exactly what happened, because those who favor privatization

saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed. That is because I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans.

Shulkin -- the only Cabinet holdover from the Obama administration -- notes that the VA had been happily bipartisan until Trump's people came in, and that now the "department has become entangled in a brutal power struggle, with some political appointees choosing to promote their agendas instead of what’s best for veterans." And of course he's completely right. But there really was all that regrettable grifting on David's European Vacation, so he's out, and exactly as Yr Wonkette predicted, the VA will now be headed by some MBA Trump golfs with.

[OK, so we were wrong about that one! Instead, Trump is installing Dr. Ronny Jackson, the White House personal physician for the last three administrations and a very nice guy, we're sure, who is a Rear Admiral in the Navy, a very qualified medico, and has virtually no management experience whatsoever. But Trump sure does like him! And why wouldn't Trump like Dr. Johnson, after that beautiful press briefing he gave, in which he explained Trump was one pound short of being obese and perfectly fit to be president, or at the very least, could draw a clock, so he probably doesn't have full-blown Alzheimers, no sir.

An anonymous "White House official" -- we're getting to where we just always assume that means Trump himself -- confirmed to CNN that Jackson's performance in that presser was a big part of why Trump nominated Jackson to a position for which he's not especially qualified. But don't worry about that, either, because the very same official also says Jackson has a long background in the military and in medicine -- which you could also say of Hawkeye Pierce -- and has been praised for his work in previous administrations. His work as a president's personal physician.

Still, while nobody knows anything about Jackson's approach to management or what he thinks about privatizing the VA, the main thing is that the "president" likes him, and that he sure looks like a real doctor guy, doesn't he? And yes, CNN even got hold of a recording of Trump using his highest possible praise for Jackson during a February fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago: "He's like central casting -- like a Hollywood star," said the man who is himself the very personification of the bad-guy developer from a "Scooby Doo" cartoon.

Rachel Maddow had entirely too much fun with Trump's choice of Jackson, noting that reporters who are also actual doctors felt compelled to translate Jackson's glowing pronouncements, "because maybe someone should take the little hearts off the i's."

Quote of the week: "It may be that where everyone else saw over-the-top hyper-obsequiousness, to the point of pleasant homoerotic tension, the president saw 'Hey, I like the way that guy talks on TV!'" Ms. Maddow, you are welcome to come write for Wonkette any time you want.

Of course, it's not all just pleasant homoerotic tension -- Veterans Affairs is, after all, the second-largest federal bureaucracy (after the department that creates veterans), and absolutely no one thinks Jackson is prepared to run it. An anonymous source -- definitely not Trump this time -- who talked to Politico seems fairly typical:

One former VA official said said his “first reaction was OMG. That’s still my reaction.”

“The replacement has no experience,” the official added. “The VA is the hardest department to manage as it is so political."

Joseph Chenelly, the head of veterans group American Veterans, also brought up a concern that might not be obvious at first: Since Jackson is still an active-duty officer in the Navy, he's bound by orders from the Commander in Chief -- even an incompetent one:

"There's a possibility that the doctor couldn't even say no to the president,” he said. “We're not a government that's run by our military.”

Oh, but maybe Jackson, despite having no experience running a government agency (even a small one) will turn out to be a surprisingly competent administrator! Or maybe he'll be an amiable yes-man who'll sign off on whatever his Trump-provided aides tell him would be an excellent idea to improve healthcare for vets, like outsourcing their care to private insurers and hospital chains. The Senate should probably ask him about that during his confirmation hearings, huh?

That's the fun thing about Trump appointees: They're like a box of chocolates! Not only do you never know what you're going to get, sometimes they're actually toxic to people who are allergic to nuts.

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[NYT / CNN / Politico]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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