Normally I can’t stand Imus but I’ve got to give credit where credit’s due. He didn’t let Senator Schumer get away with any weaseling on the poor conditions for our wounded soldiers.
A short transcript, more here.
Imus: Senator Schumer, you’re not suggesting to me that this is something that just happened under the Bush administration. This has been going on since Korea, since the second world war.
Schumer: It’s been going on for a while, but what happened with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is that the system got completely overloaded and it really broke down.
Imus: We’ve known for years, certainly since 1981, that the care and the way that these veterans have been treated to a large degree, not because it’s the people’s fault — most of them, the doctors and nurses particularly at the Veterans Administration — but for a variety of reasons, in many cases, their treatment and care has been woefully inadequate.
The bureaucratic red tape has been a nightmare for a lot of these people, and that’s been going on for years, and my question is why haven’t any of you ever done anything about it?
Schumer: Well, we’ve tried. I’ve been fighting since I got to the Senate for full funding for the veterans, and we didn’t do any oversight. That’s the real problem here . . . I’ll tell you one other thing that will happen. We’ll get full funding for the VA this year, for the first time. We did actually, to show you a little bit that this isn’t just catching up to the crisis, we did a budget in early January . . .
Imus: Let me interrupt you for a second, but this is nonsense, Senator Schumer. I want to be respectful, but you can’t possibly be serious and suggest — I mean I’m not a fool. You can’t suggest to me that because the Democrats are now in power that something is going to be done about Walter Reed and about the mess in the Veterans Administration and all of this, and that if the Democrats hadn’t taken control of Congress that nothing would have been done. That’s preposterous; of course it would have.
Schumer: Well, something would have been done if the story would have gotten out . . .
Imus: Here’s another question. Have you ever been over to Walter Reed?
Schumer: Ahh, not in a while, no.
Imus: How long has it been since you’ve been over there?
Schumer: Oh, before Iraq.
Imus: So, before Iraq since you’ve been over to see the soldiers. So, we have elected you — first in the Congress and now in the Senate — and you’ve got a bill now to do something we’ll get to in a minute; but you haven’t even been to Walter Reed Hospital.
Schumer: No, no, no. But I have visited regularly the veterans’ hospitals throughout my state. That’s where I have focused on . . .
Imus: Well, you must have seen the state of affairs there . . .
Schumer: I did.
Imus: Well why didn’t you do something about it?
Schumer: We did . . . I did . . . I tried, I have been pushing . . .
Imus: Well nothing happened, Senator.
Schumer: No, nothing happened, I agree with you. It’s a shame. It’s a disgrace.
Imus: Did you vote to authorize the president to go to war in Iraq?
Imus: Good . . . So why wouldn’t you, once you voted for the president to go to war in Iraq, why wouldn’t you go over to Walter Reed — since the Iraq war has begun its been going on longer than World War II — to see the consequence of your vote. They are over there with no arms and legs, Senator.
Schumer: I did see the consequence throughout my state. I went to many, many veterans’ hospitals there. Did I visit every veterans’ hospital? No, but I spent a lot of time; I mean, three weeks before this crisis happened, I was throughout the cities of my state meeting with guardsmen and reservists about the bad benefits they got in terms of health care.
Imus: But you need to go see the kids with no arms and legs . . .
Schumer: I am going to go to Walter Reed. You know, probably I should have gone there . . .
Imus: Without question, you should have . . .
I understand that Walter Ried is only a few miles away from the Capitol building. There must have been New York residents who were hospitalized there. I don’t know for sure, but I bet President Bush has been there a number of times.
Certainly the administration deserves a lot of blame for any mistreatment of our soldiers who have been hospitalized. In my opinion Congress has a bigger responsibility. They control the purse strings and they should ensure that our vets get what they deserve.