Refusing to simply take his word for it that the President is “mad as hell” about the Veterans Administration waiting-list scandal, CBS’s Major Garrett aggressively questioned White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Face the Nation Sunday regarding the Obama White House’s virtual silence on the matter.
When McDonough continued to deflect questions directly related to the VA scandal by pointing to the administration’s work on post-traumatic stress and unemployment, Garrett pushed him further, asking him if he could (audio here):
"...understand how a veteran who may have been victimized by these waiting lists or be concerned they might still become victimized might hear all your answers [and] say, “Yes, I understand the broad argument you're making about things the President has done but I need answers and specific outrage about this problem now.”
McDonough responded by assuring Garrett that “no one is more outraged about this problem than the President of the United States.” While the media has generally deflected all criticism away from the President on the VA scandal, this was a rare creditable moment for a broadcast news media outlet when it comes to tackling an Obama administration scandal.
A full transcript of the Face the Nation segment is below:
MAJOR GARRETT: Let me ask you about the President himself, you describe scars that you have, from the President, from his anger, based on briefings you've given him. What has the public heard from the president? It's been nearly three weeks since the president has commented on this publicly, I want to take that period of time, almost three weeks, nothing from the president publicly, where has the President been?
DENIS MCDONOUGH: The president has been an active voice for increased resources and reform at the Veterans Administration since he joined the veterans committee in the Senate over seven, eight, nine years ago.
GARRETT: I'm talking about a specific issue--
MCDONOUGH: He will continue to go out and he'll continue to talk as he did in Asia in response to questions and throughout the course of his administration will continue to fight for reform, continue to fight for performance and will put the money of theUnited States government where his mouth is.
GARRETT: The veterans in the country say, where has the president you would say he's play inside game.
MCDONOUGH: That is your word. The president has been fighting for increased resources for the veterans administration, the President been out time and again fighting to make sure that not only those resources out there but country recognizes the sacrifices that those veterans have made. The president is continually out there talking about the challenges that are facing this country by veteran suicide --
GARRETT: But he has not addressed this issue--
MCDONOUGH: Untrue. As it relates to post traumatic stress where he's been out there time and again we have worked to lower veterans unemployment by 1.5%. Over the course of last several years. We'll continue to make sure that this there kind of jobs available for vets, he will --
GARRETT: You understand how veterans who may have been victimized by these waiting lists or be concerned they might soon become victimized might hear all your answers and say, yes, I understand the broad argument you're making about things the president has done but I need answers and specific outrage about this problem now.
MCDONOUGH: The president -- nobody is more outraged by this problem than President of the United States. He'll continue to press as relates to this question of timely access to care until it is fixed. That's why we've invested additional billions of dollars in the veterans health administration so that they can have timely access to good care. As relates to the allegations, what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna get to the bottom of them and make sure we understand exactly what happened and make sure that it never happens again.