With VA, Obama management style under fire again

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House is once again brushing aside questions about President Barack Obama's management style.

Amid the growing scandal over the apparent cover-up of patient wait times at some Veterans Affairs facilities, Republicans and even some Democrats have complained Obama's public posture has been detached, relying too heavily on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor blasted the President after White House press secretary Jay Carney disclosed that Obama first learned of the crisis at the VA from news reports, including an investigative story on troubles at a VA facility in Phoenix aired on CNN.

"I will tell you, I am disturbed by statements out of the White House that say that the President heard about this in the news," Cantor told reporters Tuesday. "It is time for our president to come forward and take responsibility for this and do the right thing by these veterans."

At the White House press briefing Tuesday, Carney sought to clarify his remarks, insisting the President has known about wait time issues at the VA for years.

But Carney declined to specify exactly when the President first learned of the concealing of wait times at VA facilities.

"I would urge you to wait for the investigation," Carney said.

White House officials argue Obama has fought to increase funding for veterans care ever since he first ran for the presidency, when he promised to build a "21st century VA."

"We can go over the record of support for our veterans since President Obama took office, the request for additional funding that the President has made every year he's been in office for the VA," Carney said.

"Our focus on - the President's focus isn't on glib rejoinders," Carney added in response to Cantor's comments.

But one of Obama's longtime supporters, Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a wounded veteran herself, suggested Tuesday the President could be more engaged in the VA crisis.

"I think he's relied on Secretary Shinseki, but we could use his personal attention at this point," Duckworth said in an interview with the Washington Post.

The President has been caught off guard by failures inside his administration before. Last October, Obama struggled to contain a crisis in confidence when the government web site, healthcare.gov, could barely function. The President only became aware of the site's woes after it was launched.

Just as Obama stood by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during the botched rollout and the eventual repair of Healthcare.gov, the President remains confident, at least publicly, in VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

"The President has confidence in Secretary Shinseki," Carney finally said after being pressed by reporters Monday.

In another parallel to the debacle at HHS, in which trusted administration official Jeffrey Zeints was tapped to fix Healthcare.gov, Obama has turned to his deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors to assist the VA in its investigation. Nabors is scheduled to visit the Phoenix VA facility and meet with officials there Thursday.

The President is scheduled to meet with Shinseki and Nabors at the White House at 10am ET Wednesday morning to discuss the VA, with Obama making a public statement on the controversy at 10:45am.

Republican critics see a pattern of poor governance.

"This is a campaign that was very good at messaging, but they have no competence in terms of governing," Rubio told Fox News Tuesday night. "They're more concerned about what they're going to say than what they're going to do."

The-CNN-Wire
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