Republican Wouldn't Treat Their Dogs This Poorly: Walter Reed Hearings
Jeff remind us to use the information coming from these Walter Reed hearings correctly.
The hero of today's witnesses, soft-spoken Annette McLeod talked of cruel case workers and manipulative bureaucrats denying veterans' access to much needed medical care. Giving one shocking example after another, McLeod described one instance where a Walter Reed staff member tried to reclassify her husband as mentally retarded to prevent him from receiving necessary, but costly medical care.
McLeod's husband, National Guardsman Cpl. Wendell McLeod, is in the VA system to receive care for brain injuries he sustained in Iraq.
"He got treatment a dog didn't deserve," said McLeod to a panel of stunned Committee members.
Interestingly, while the initial Washington Post article that broke this story focused on the "neglect" of injured soldiers, the subsequent media coverage has focused up to this point on the physical conditions of the Walter Reed facility.
The testimony of Annette McLeod signals a clear shift in the focus of the debate--a shift away from dispassionate discussion of decayed building "conditions" to an emotional talk of the "neglect" and abuse of injured veterans in a system that prioritizes cutting medical costs over care.
Veterans Talk of "Neglect," Bush Tries To Focus Debate on "Conditions"
In his radio address this week, President Bush mentioned his commitment to "care" for injured veterans, but it is clear that his framing strategy is to focus the debate on the "conditions" of the buildings and to minimize the denial of care with deceptive references to "bureaucratic delays":
These servicemen and women deserve the thanks of our country, and they deserve the best care our Nation can provide. That is why I was deeply troubled by recent reports of substandard conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Most of the people working at Walter Reed are dedicated professionals. These fine doctors, nurses, and therapists care deeply about our wounded troops, and they work day and night to help them. Yet some of our troops at Walter Reed have experienced bureaucratic delays and living conditions that are less than they deserve. This is unacceptable to me, it is unacceptable to our country, and it's not going to continue.
Listening to the testimony of the witnesses, today, it appeared that injured veterans did not suffer "bureaucratic delays" so much as systematic efforts to reduce costs by denying medical care to veterans.
A political debate about the VA system that continued to focus on "conditions" of the buildings rather than the "neglect" of patients would further exacerbate the sufferings of veterans and their families.
Framing Focus: People
While public broadcast hearings represent an important step in resolving this crisis, there is a significant risk that the White House will try to hide the full extent of the veteran care problem in an aggressive PR campaign.
To avoid falling victim to White House spin in the Walter Reed debate, progressives can frame the debate with keywords that emphasize people instead of buildings, experience rather than conditions.
Jeff goes on to make a nice list of words you should use when talking about this, to which I'd add, "shameful, humiliating, infuriating, unAmerican, traitorous."
The larger point is one that compares to Katrina. Everything the Bush administration does is on the cheap, except when it comes to contracts awarded to his cronies. Everything his cronies do they fuck up, again applying the 'on the cheap, but billing large' principle.
People need to understand that code words like "privitization" really don't mean anything more than undercutting essential services so cronies can get rich.
Bush doesn't care about soldiers and veterans any more than he cares about Black people. In Bush's world, we're all niggers now, and if we die from drowning in a pool of foetid water or our own piss, it means nothing to him.
Update: Obama tries to do some good about all this.