Editor’s Note: Scott Jennings, a CNN contributor, is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and former campaign adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell. He is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations in Louisville, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJenningsKY. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
The shameful smearing of Dr. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician who was nominated by President Donald Trump to be Secretary of the Veterans Affairs Administration and has now withdrawn, is example #967 of why people hate Washington D.C. and were in a revolutionary mood at the 2016 ballot box.
Montana Senator Jon Tester in particular ought to be ashamed of publicly airing unproven allegations against a Navy Admiral and doctor who has served his nation and three Commanders-in-Chief with honor. Tester sullied the reputation of a good man and no doubt chilled many people who ever had a fleeting thought of offering themselves up for public service.
Where does Jackson go to get his reputation back? Nowhere. The Internet is forever. I don’t know if Dr. Jackson was the right man to lead the VA or not. That’s what confirmation hearings are for – to discuss candidates’ qualifications and assess their fitness. Clearly, Jackson should have been vetted, just as any presidential nominee should head to Capitol Hill.
But debating Jackson’s qualifications in committee and Tester’s short-circuiting the process with his McCarthy-like smear campaign are two different things. After all, most of Jackson’s White House service came during President Barack Obama’s eight years.
Two of the accusations – that Dr. Jackson drunkenly banged on a female colleague’s hotel door in the middle of the night and wrecked a government vehicle – were busted over the weekend. The Secret Service disputed the allegations of door-banging and the White House, according to the Washington Post, said officials reviewed Jackson’s vehicle records and found “three minor incidents” but “no evidence” that Jackson had wrecked a car.
Tester’s allegations painted a picture of Jackson as some sort of drunken, pill-pushing quack, handing out drugs willy-nilly (Tester claimed on national television Jackson was called “The Candyman”) and generally conducting himself dishonorably.
These allegations were so outrageous that Jonathan Swan, the reporter from Axios who broke the original story that Jackson’s nomination was in trouble, refused to print them. In an interview with Fox News, Swan expressed a “sense of deep concern and anger” about how Tester and the media circulated the accusation against Jackson “because I broke that stupid story on Sunday… [that] his confirmation is in peril…The reason I wrote it that way is not because I didn’t know what the allegations were. I was given them on Friday. I knew what these allegations were. But I don’t know if they are true … So I’m not just going to go, ‘Well, it’s alleged, and I am hearing that this guy did all of these terrible things, and x, y, and z,’ because I have no idea if it’s true or not. And clearly neither does Jon Tester. Surely, this is a problem.”
If Tester believes his allegations are true, why didn’t he demand emergency hearings about how an alcohol-fueled pill mill was being run out of the White House? Why aren’t we demanding an inquiry into how someone of such low character was entrusted with the President’s health for eight years?
I’m not buying it. But don’t take my word for it. Look at what President Obama himself wrote about Dr. Jackson’s service in performance reviews over the years:
“Ronny’s positive impact cannot be overstated. He is a tremendous asset to the entire White House team.”
Obama called Dr. Jackson “a most impressive leader,” recommended him for promotion, and praised his “incredible work ethic and follow-through.”
Some of these compliments and recommendations came after the supposed car wrecks and door-banging incident; that’s hardly the kind of endorsement one gets from the President of the United States after making a habit of acting recklessly.
Ronny Jackson may not have been the best choice to run the VA, but we’ll never know thanks to the time-honored Washington tradition of destroying good people who raise their hands when the president asks them to step forward. Repeatedly of late, Democrats have been the ones to delay, try to block, and vote against qualified people for executive branch positions.
Mike Pompeo, first in his class at West Point and a Harvard Law graduate who performed admirably as CIA Director, received 42 Democratic ‘no’ votes for the sin of having been nominated by Trump.
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The appointment of Richard Grenell as Ambassador to Germany was delayed for more than one year, as Democrats objected to it moving forward on numerous occasions. He was finally confirmed last week, with the 42 Democrats voting no. Grenell is eminently qualified to serve as an ambassador with a long and distinguished career of diplomatic service during the Bush Administration.
But that’s no matter to the Democrats, who would prefer President Trump not staff his government. Having failed to beat him in an election, Democrats like Jon Tester and others are now playing a despicable game of maligning anyone who carries nomination papers signed by Donald J. Trump.
They ought to be ashamed of themselves, and voters in November should hold this behavior against Tester and any other Democrat who participates in this craven D.C. circus.