Public Service the Hard Way

From The Washington Monthly

By the standards of the Trump era, Clinton’s own appointments of family and friends, like Reich, lack of organizational discipline, and sometimes chaotic White House decision-making style now look like model executive branch behavior.

Since January 2017, nearly a dozen of the president’s cabinet members have quit or been fired. David Shulkin, former Secretary for Veterans Affairsis one of three with new book out about their experience. (The others include his more high-profile colleagues James Mattis and Nikki Haley.)

Like Reich, Shulkin faced many obstacles to fulfilling the mission of his agency. But his book mistakenly identifies “broken government” as the reason for the dysfunction. In fact, the “plight of veterans” has been worsened by a Republican president who’s done everything he can to prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from better serving them.

Shulkin’s appointment was unusual for three reasons: He was the first non-veteran to become VA Secretary (most others have been former generals or officers of some type); he was the only under-secretary in a cabinet department under Obama that Trump promoted to the agency’s top job; and there was a a rare bi-partisan consensus around his nomination. He was confirmed on a unanimous Senate vote, earning him the presidential nickname, “Mr. 100 percent.


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