Hugh Hewitt: GOP candidates should use Wednesday's debate as an opportunity to rebut Hillary Clinton's dismissal of the VA scandal
He says the VA scandal epitomizes ways in which Obama administration has failed
Editor’s Note: Hugh Hewitt is a lawyer, law professor, author and host of a nationally syndicated radio show. He served in the Reagan administration in posts including assistant counsel in the White House and special assistant to two attorneys general. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Would-be GOP presidential nominees who fail to focus on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s astonishing and self-destructive dismissal of the VA scandal as “overstated” last Friday night will be missing this evening’s opportunity to permanently mark the likely Democratic nominee as simply ineligible for any veteran’s vote.
Hillary told Rachel Maddow on the latter’s Friday program that the VA scandal was “overstated,” that “overall, veterans who do get treated are satisfied with their treatment,” and that “nobody would believe that from the coverage that you see, and the constant berating of the VA that comes from the Republicans, in – in part in pursuit of this ideological agenda that they have.”
The stunning cluelessness of this out-of-way-left-field statement could not fully be absorbed by the nation’s pundit elite in time for the Sunday shows that parsed Clinton’s Benghazi testimony. But GOP candidates and their briefing staffs have had plenty of time in the five days since she declared this up-is-down attitude on the VA to peruse the Inspector General’s audits and to outline the systemic nature of the VA’s ills and its lethal – yes, lethal– indifference to veterans’ health throughout the Obama years.
Clinton’s ignorance of these very basic facts seems driven by her inexhaustible hatred of Republicans – among the “enemies” she is most proud of, as she candidly admitted in the only Democratic debate to date.
Clinton seems driven to put every catastrophic failure of the Obama-Clinton years on the GOP no matter how absurd and insulting the stretch. The very real, very extensive VA scandals are not the product of the “vast right wing conspiracy” but of the administration and President she served, as are the IRS scandals without end and yes, the Benghazi scandal.
Hillary’s threefold problem – she is believed untrustworthy, corrupt and incompetent by large swaths of the electorate – are all exacerbated by harsh lies about the extent of and responsibility for the VA meltdown. The investigations into the VA are not partisan witch hunts. They have nothing to do with partisanship. Ask any 10 veterans of the war that began on 9/11 what they think of the VA health care. Clinton obviously hasn’t. But GOP candidates should, and should relay the results of their investigations Wednesday night.
There will be a temptation to pounce on Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s inability on Sunday’s “This Week” on ABC to distinguish for George Stephanopoulus the criminal wrongdoing of Gen. David Petraeus in passing classified information to his girlfriend/biographer from that of then-Secretary of State Clinton passing classified information about Benghazi to her daughter on the night of the terrorist attack.
But there is a full year to hammer that comparison and a score of others related to Hillary’s secret server and tens of thousands of secret emails. (Hillary’s server and the emails are to her legacy what Nixon’s recording device and tapes are to his.)
Clinton’s campaign has moved quickly to try to cover her tracks on the VA outburst, admitting Tuesday there are “systemic” problems at the VA.
The GOP candidates have to master the facts on why, far from “overstated,” the Obama-Clinton era VA defines the administration as do the IRS, the Russian reset button, the disastrous Libyan and Syrian policies and the vast, vast debt.
Wednesday’s debate will have a huge audience. The GOP candidates must not waste it. Let the country know that the callousness of Clinton with regards to the veterans ill-served by the VA rises to the same level of her callousness toward the families of the fallen in Benghazi who she told had died because of a video when she knew “an al-Qaeda-like” group and not a video was responsible for their loved ones’ murders.
Hillary is simply cold to the core. There is nothing that she will not say or do to win the office she must have, including denying every terrible thing that has happened in the past eight years – including the one scandal not even the Democrats have tried to hide or diminish.