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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — In nominating Bob McDonald as the next secretary of Veterans Affairs, President Barack Obama is recruiting a West Point graduate with experience in running a big corporation — Procter & Gamble — to turn around a department whose failure to provide timely care to veterans has caused a political furor.

If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald would succeed Eric K. Shinseki, a retired four-star general who stepped down last month amid a scandal in which VA employees falsified records to cover up long waits for medical appointments.

McDonald would face a daunting task in trying to fix the numerous problems within one of the largest federal departments, which a White House report described as having a “corrosive culture.” The VA also is struggling to respond to increasing demand for services from veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A White House official signaled that Obama would nominate McDonald, 61, on Monday, saying the former corporate executive’s 33-year tenure at Procter & Gamble “prepares him well for a huge agency with management challenges in servicing more than 8 million veterans a year.”

At P&G, McDonald oversaw more than 120,000 employees, the official noted, adding that business associates have described him as a “master at complex operations.”

McDonald served in the Army for five years, achieving the rank of captain in the 82nd Airborne Division, according to the White House. He retired from P&G in June 2013 and lives in Cincinnati.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, planned to meet with McDonald next week.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said McDonald faced the challenge of turning around a VA “under a specter of corruption that may very well surpass anything in the history of American government.”

Investigators are examining whether VA managers pressed subordinates to manipulate waiting lists for appointments so that the managers could qualify for bonuses. The investigation could lead to criminal charges.

Miller said the next secretary would need to “root out the culture of dishonesty and fraud that has taken hold within the department and is contributing to all of its most pressing challenges. Quite simply, those who created the VA scandal will need to be purged from the system.”

Miller, who has complained about the VA’s failure to respond to his committee’s requests for information, said the next secretary also would need to focus on “solving problems instead of downplaying or hiding them, holding employees accountable for mismanagement and negligence that harms veterans, and understanding that taxpayer-funded organizations such as VA have a responsibility to provide information to Congress and the public rather than stonewalling them.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), said in a statement that although McDonald is “capable of implementing the kind of dramatic systemic change that is badly needed and long overdue at the VA,” he would only succeed if the president “commits to doing whatever it takes to give our veterans the world-class health care system they deserve by articulating a vision for sweeping reform.”

Born in Gary, Ind., and raised in the Chicago area, McDonald led P&G from 2009 to 2013. During that time, P&G’s annual sales exceeded $84 billion, according to the company, and its stock price rose from $51.10 on the day he became chief executive to close at $81.64 on the day his last quarterly results were announced — a 60 percent increase.

Dan Dellinger, national commander of the 2.4-million-member American Legion, said he was encouraged to hear that Obama planned to nominate a new VA leader.

“The VA needs a permanent secretary as soon as possible to oversee the restructuring necessary to guarantee that our veterans receive the care they have earned in a timely manner,” he said.
The VA, which operates 1,700 hospitals and clinics and handled 85 million outpatient visits last year, has been rocked by a spate of critical reports.

Last month the VA inspector general found systemic problems throughout the VA health care system in scheduling veterans for medical appointments in a timely manner, including instances of manipulation to mask long waits. At the Phoenix VA, investigators found an average wait of 115 days for a sample of veterans, when the VA’s goal was 14 days.

Last week, the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates whistle-blower complaints, assailed the VA for failing to acknowledge the “severity of systemic problems” that have put patients at risk.

And on Friday, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors, who has been visiting VA facilities, issued his own report, finding a “corrosive culture” inside the department that has been exacerbated by poor management and a history of retaliation toward employees who report problems.

The department’s inspector general is investigating 77 facilities and is due to issue a final report in August.

In the meantime, House-Senate negotiators are working to reconcile differences on legislation that would allow more veterans facing long waits at VA facilities to see private doctors and expand the VA secretary’s authority to fire senior managers for poor performance. A potentially contentious proposal would increase VA funding so that it could hire more doctors and nurses.

Kathleen Hennessey in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

AFP Photo / Stephen Chernin

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Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]