On Thursday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testified before Congress about allegations that VA facilities around the nation had falsified wait times for veterans. His response: “Any allegation, any adverse incident like this makes me mad as hell.” Meanwhile, over at the White House, press secretary Jay Carney explains that Obama is “concerned and angry” over the allegations.
To which our response should be: so the hell what?
Why exactly do we care about the feelings of our Secretary of Veterans Affairs? Why are the American people now in the business of examining the innermost emotional lives of our politicians, rather than their ability to do their jobs?
This sort of language must be poll tested. How else can we explain the sudden ubiquity of this non-answer answer to scandal? Here’s White House press secretary Jay Carney explaining President Obama’s response to the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups: “I mean, nobody's been more outraged by the reported conduct here than the president of the United States.” And here’s Obama on allegations that Secret Service members were shtupping prostitutes in Colombia: “Of course I’ll be angry.”
Here’s Hillary Clinton on her failures of leadership before, during, and after the terrorist attacks in Benghazi: “I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters.” She teared up while saying this. That was shortly before she screamed at Congress that it made no difference why four men were killed in Benghazi.
Feelings and intentions matter significantly more to Americans than actions. It doesn’t matter if Shinseki presided over a department that let 40 veterans die. It doesn’t matter if Obama has presided over scandal after scandal, or if Hillary failed to provide armed protection at the American consulate in Benghazi. It doesn’t matter if they all lie. So long as they’re emotional about life, we’re willing to cut them slack.
That’s how President Obama was elected in 2012. President Bill Clinton summed it up well while making the case for Obama during that election cycle:
Governor Romney's argument is, we're not fixed, so fire him and put me in. It is true we're not fixed. When President Obama looked into the eyes of that man who said in the debate, I had so much hope four years ago and I don't now, I thought he was going to cry. Because he knows that it's not fixed.
To which our response should be: who in the hell cares? If I hire a plumber, and he proceeds to completely destroy my pipes, then tears up and tells me he feels bad about that, should I pay him and then recommend him to friends? Of course not. To do so would be absurd.
But when it comes to our politicians, we're willing to take them at their word. Their feelings trump their actions. That’s on us, not on the politicians who take advantage of our bleeding hearts to inflict wounds on an already-bleeding country.