VA Secretary

If President Barack Obama’s planned nominee to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary is as intelligent and tuned in as is being touted, Robert McDonald is battling back the urge to turn around and run, right about now. The former Procter & Gamble executive must face a confirmation process that will rightly include intense questioning, as senators determine whether he is the right person to correct one of the most tragic failings of the federal government in recent memory.

Just last week, Obama adviser Rob Nabors and acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson delivered a report citing “significant and chronic system failures” in the more-than 80-year-old government-run healthcare system. Even with such strong language, it does not seem enough to call the unnecessary deaths – we are not certain, now, how many – of those who devoted their lives to serving our country a simple failure.

But McDonald is the man Obama thinks can change all that. He is being called “a good man,” someone with “love of our nation’s military and veteran community.” By all accounts, those things were true of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, as well.

McDonald is a West Point graduate who served as a captain in the Army, mainly in the 82nd Airborne Division; and, he was an executive at Procter & Gamble during a time when the company was reaching annual sales of more than $84 billion. He knows the military and he knows how to run large corporations.

It all adds up to an impressive picture with one unknown. Does he have the fortitude to take on decades of entrenched, nationwide decay – and all the influential people who must come under fire? Can he get the job done, in order to fulfill our nation’s promise to its military veterans?

There will be no room for whining that McDonald is being unfairly scrutinized by those tapped with confirming his nomination. He must face every tough question the Senate can throw at him. If his answers leave the slightest doubt that he will do right by those who depend on the Department of Veterans Affairs, Obama must be willing to start the search anew.