President Obama has shown over the last six years that he is by nature reluctant to lop off heads and fire subordinates at the first sign of scandal in their agencies. But Eric Shinseki can take little encouragement from the president's comments Wednesday. Even while praising the embattled secretary of Veterans Affairs, he did seem to be nudging him toward the door.
If there was any doubt that the president is open to the possibility of changed leadership at the VA, White House press secretary Jay Carney dispelled it at his daily briefing when he said that was "a fair reading" of what the president said. If the current allegations prove to be true, said Carney, "There should be consequences. He made that clear to Secretary Shinseki."
At the least, Obama did not rule out the possibility that the secretary may make his own decision to head for the exit. Referring to him informally as "Ric," the president almost seemed to be inviting Shinseki to leave. He said that Shinseki's "attitude is, if he does not think he can do a good job on this and if he thinks he's let our veterans down, then I'm sure that he is not going to be interested in continuing to serve." He quickly added that Shinseki "is committed to solving the problem and working with us" on getting to the bottom of the allegations. But that, he said rather ominously, was "at this stage."