Appointing people to run federal agencies who are opposed to the work and, sometimes, to the very existence of those agencies is an established gesture of the Trump Presidency. Scott Pruitt all but promised to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency during his confirmation hearing, last January. Rick Perry, the Energy Secretary, once wanted to abolish the Department of Energy, though he apparently didn’t understand what the department was. Betsy DeVos, a stranger to and an apparent foe of public schools, became the Secretary of Education. In a distinct but related kind of gesture, Trump has appointed people who are clearly unqualified for their jobs, as when he made Ben Carson the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, or when he tapped Jackson for Veterans Affairs. The two kinds of gestures send messages consistent with the themes of Trump’s never-ending Presidential campaign: he sees the U.S. government as a “swamp” that is best drained by destruction. He also continues to reprise his television persona of the boss whose power is displayed through hiring and firing—the more unpredictably and dramatically, the better.
The Jackson nomination built on this pattern. Why shouldn’t Trump appoint his own doctor to run a vast health-care bureaucracy? The incongruence of job and résumé cannot be an obstacle: White House physician is to head of Veterans Affairs roughly as head of the Trump Organization is to President of the United States. Jackson’s appointment would have served indirectly to affirm, yet again, that President Trump is conceivable.
Jackson has, famously, affirmed the President more directly. In a January press conference, he praised Trump’s “excellent health” and shared the results of a cognitive exam in which the President achieved a perfect score. Jackson also revealed a height and weight for Trump that strained credulity for many observers. Compelling subordinates to lie for him is another of the ways in which Trump asserts power. There was, in the earliest days, the press secretary, Sean Spicer, lying about the size of the Inauguration crowd. Last May, there was H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser, telling reporters that the President had not divulged security information to Russian interlocutors. In October, there was the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, lying on behalf of the President to discredit Representative Frederica Wilson. It is easily conceivable that Ronny Jackson was yet another man in uniform who had been reduced to lying to show his loyalty to the Commander-in-Chief.
So how did Jackson fail? Simple: the one unforgivable sin in the Trump regime is making Dear Leader look bad.
Lying for Trump has become such a familiar practice in American politics that it would almost certainly have had no impact on the Jackson nomination. But Jackson’s problems were bigger. He has been accused of creating a hostile work environment; of dispensing painkillers and sleeping aids too liberally; of drinking; of drinking and driving recklessly; and of drinking himself into a stupor that made him unavailable when his services were needed. These are all allegations, as yet uncorroborated; in a statement on Thursday morning, Jackson called them “completely false and fabricated.” But, according to Democratic Senator Jon Tester, of Montana, more than twenty people have brought accusations against Jackson. Furthermore, as long ago as 2012, an inspector-general report raised the alarm about “unprofessional behaviors” in the White House medical unit. The sheer number of people making complaints and the inspector-general report serve to corroborate each other.
Trump took that as a rightful knock on his already garbage judgment. Jackson embarrassed Trump, and for that, Trump will flay you alive.
So Jackson will get his retirement from service, and how rough the Navy is on him will depend on how much of an appetite is left for cleaning house after the Fat Leonard scandal (which is still justifiably wrecking Naval careers) or if there's basically anyone left to turn out the lights out and burn Jackson's service jacket.
As far as our veterans, well, just like everyone else in America who isn't a millionaire, they don't matter to this regime and never did, and fixing the problems in the VA will fall to the poor bastard who comes after Trump.
Part of me thinks we're all being primed for Pence being slightly less of a moron just so we get into a "grass been brown so long it looks green to me" situation in 2020.