On Friday morning Eric Shinseki finally handed his resignation as Veterans Affairs Secretary. After Shinseki’s handling of the VA healthcare system, where around 1,700 veterans were awaiting treatment at a Phoenix hospital due to bureaucratic incompetency, everyone at that moment knew the end was near. After something like that, even a lifetime of service – like Shinseki has – can’t save you from being the VA’s political scapegoat. This was inevitable. The only question was going to be when.
Jay Carney’s exit on the other hand, couldn’t have been any more different.
In a press conference last Friday, Carney announced he too would be stepping down as President Obama’s White House press secretary. Unlike Shinseki, Carney left with many singing his praises. As a former reporter that covered the White House for Time Magazine, Carney had that rare gift of communicating to reporters without losing the talking points given by the White House.
While it is true, President Obama did wax nostalgic for both men and the service that they did, it’s important to remember context in this situation. Because for one of them, it might have actually been “bittersweet” for President Obama to see them go. For the other, it was more of a relief.
Yet the real story of both men is this. Carney left on his own terms, while Shinseki did not. Both men each represented the only two ways anyone leaves a high-profile position in Washington. Or as The Dark Knight puts it…
Jay Carney knew this fact of Washington life and Shinseki didn’t. And that’s the only real difference here. Well… that and 1,700 veterans still waiting medical treatments. But this is Washington after all. Those are just details.