Saturday, February 2, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He found a way to hire Ronny Jackson.

Navy physician Dr. Ronny Jackson first came to the public's attention last year when he gave a glowing report after Trump's first physical examination as president. Jackson took reporters' questions for over an hour and deeply impressed the television-obsessed Trump with his poise on camera. At times, Jackson almost seemed to be channeling Trump himself, saying that the 71-year-old had "good genes" and "might live to be 200 years old." 

(It also probably helped that Jackson was willing to report Trump's weight as a suspiciously flattering 239 pounds, exactly what was necessary to move him into the "overweight" category for his height, rather than "obese.")

Trump responded by nominating Jackson to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, a gargantuan administrative department that oversees, among other programs, the VA hospital system. Jackson had no particular administrative or management experience, but probably would have been confirmed regardless, except that the scrutiny of the confirmation process exposed other problems. Jackson had been under the influence of alcohol while on duty as a Navy doctor, handed out prescription drugs without examinations, and was at the center of a toxic and dysfunctional work environment in the White House medical office. Jackson eventually withdrew himself from consideration.

Today, Trump announced that he was appointing Jackson to a job as "assistant to the President and chief medical advisor." He also recommended that Jackson, currently a one-star rear admiral, be promoted. Jackson is currently under investigation by the Department of Defense for the same wrongdoing that derailed his nomination.

Trump's annual physical exam is scheduled for next week.

Why does this matter?

  • Positions of trust in the government and the military are supposed to be given because of a person's actual qualifications, not personal flattery of the president.
  • There are probably physicians who can advise Trump on medicine who haven't been caught drunk on duty, mishandling medicines, or abusing co-workers.
  • It shouldn't be this easy to manipulate a president.