Saturday, December 06, 2008

Cabinet watch.

It's General Eric Shinseki (US Army, retired) for Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

I wasn't crazy about his decision to eliminate the Rangers' franchise on black berets and issue them to everybody, but he was a Ranger himself, and I wasn't, so I'll yield the point to his superior standing. I suppose the morale standards of today's Army require allowing every company clerk needs to dress up like a commando in camo and beret.

What Shinseki is best known for, of course, is challenging Donald Rumsfeld on the force requirements for the occupation of Iraq and, in essence, getting fired for being right. Obama has, in fact, cited Shinseki's prescience on troop requirements as a reason for this appointment.

I have to admit, while it may speak well to his overall judgment and realism, that's not a particularly strong - and certainly not Shinseki's strongest- credential for the VA post. While that might be a great reason to reinstate him as Army Chief of Staff, or send him back to run CENTCOM for awhile, it doesn't have much to do with recognizing and meeting the needs of veterans.

He does have the insight gained as a veteran of several wars himself, including a ground combat command in Vietnam. He will be, you might say, not just the Secretary, but a customer. He was once himself a young soldier who left a part of his body on the battlefield. Another point in his favor is that there's little the VA bureaucrats can throw at him that he hasn't long since encountered and countered on his way to four stars - a path that calls for a blending of management and political skill that is a close analog to the requirements for success as a Cabinet Secretary.

And there's this from John Aravosis…
Obama is announcing the choice of Shinseki, a Japanese-American, as VA secretary, tomorrow, Sunday, December 7. Pearl Harbor day.
The times? They've changed.

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