Eric Shinseki is Reportedly Obama's Pick for Veterans Affairs
by Jonathan Singer, Sat Dec 06, 2008 at 01:55:49 PM EST
So sayeth the Associated Press:
Democratic officials say President-elect Barack Obama has selected retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary.
The officials said Obama will announce his selection Sunday. They spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the official announcement.
Shinseki is the former Army chief of staff who upset his civilian bosses in 2003 when he testified to Congress that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the U.S. invasion. He was forced out of his job within months for being "wildly off the mark." But his words proved prophetic after President George W. Bush in early 2007 announced a "surge" of additional troops to Iraq after miscalculating.
I'm not sure that I would use the same formulation as the AP -- that it took until George W. Bush announced his surge for Eric Shinseki's words to prove prophetic, because it was clear far earlier than 2007 (as early as the summer of 2003, in fact) that Shinseki was correct in his estimation of the type of force necessary for success in Iraq -- but leaving that quibbling aside, this is a fine pick. In fact, I've been watching for some time to see if Shinseki might enter politics in one manner or another. A little over three years ago there was speculation, which in the end didn't pan out, that Shinseki might run for Hawaii Governor. And back in December 2004, I asked Shinseki directly if he might one day run for public office.
Jonathan Singer: In recent years, we have seen Generals Al Haig and Wes Clark run for their party's nominations with varying levels of success, and in 1996 there were rumors that General Colin Powell would run for President. Do you see politics in your future? And in general, what are your feelings on military men running for elective office?
General Eric Shinseki: I don't see politics in my future, so let's put that aside.
I'm not sure that we necessarily have the skills to be good politicians. It's a different world. Al Haig, Wes Clark, and Colin Powell all ran for their own personal reasons with varying degrees of success. John Glenn was more successful, Glenn coming from the Marine Corps. [transcript from notes rather than from recording]
If Shinseki brings the type of focus and willingness to speak truth to power to the Veterans Affairs that he did to the military, he is going to make a real positive difference in the lives of those who greatly deserve better treatment from our government and be a very solid addition to Barack Obama's cabinet