Hours after news of allegations of misconduct emerged against Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House physician and President Trump’s pick to be the next secretary of veterans affairs, the president had a bizarre commentary to offer.
“I told Admiral Jackson just a little while ago, what do you need this for? This is a vicious group of people. … What do you need it for?” Trump said Tuesday, during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. “I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it. What does he need it for? I don’t think personally he should do it. It would be totally his decision.”
I don’t think personally he should do it.
Could there be a stranger thing to say about the man who you nominated to take the job—whom you delivered over to an “ugly” and “disgusting” confirmation process?
Yes, Trump offered words of support for Jackson: He said he’d stand behind the doctor if he kept himself in the running, vouched for his character, and said he was unaware of the allegations against him. But several times, he repeated the question of why Jackson would do it.
Why indeed? Jackson could have, theoretically, said no, but as has been remarked often, it’s very hard for someone to tell the president of the United States no when he asks them to serve the country. This is especially true for Jackson, an active-duty member of the Navy, who would have been turning down the commander in chief. Indeed, Trump has repeatedly tapped current and former military officers, relying on their sense of duty and obedience to overcome any other hesitations. Jackson’s reward has been for his name and reputation to have been dragged through the mud, which neither he nor Trump can undo, even if he withdraws now. (It’s unclear whether the allegations, of drinking on the job, creating a hostile work environment, and overprescribing medications, have merit.)