Depending on where you get your news, you may or may not have seen this little piece on the TV screen or in your paper, if anyone still gets newspaper.
If you have ever had a connection with the Federal Government, ever worked for them, ever was a contractor, ever showed up at a Federal facility, you know that there are portraits in the lobby or reception area. They include the sitting president and vice-president, and the Secretary or other head of the department or agency whose facility you are in.
A Veterans Administration hospital in south Florida, under the jurisdiction of the Department of Veterans Affairs, did not put up the requisite photographs, leaving empty spaces there where the photos should be.
The sitting congressman in that jurisdiction, Brian Mast, took matters into his own hands and had pictures of the president, VP and the VA Secretary hung personally. There was a brief ceremony with a number of veterans attending and present.
Now, "sitting congressman" is an ironic statement in Rep. Mast's case, since he lost both his legs as a soldier in the Army. He certainly cares a lot about decorum and the proper place for the photos. He personally arranged for official portraits to be provided and was there for them to be hung.
Apparently, though, that did not satisfy the administrators at the VA hospital, West Palm Beach, who immediately removed the portraits, claiming that they were not "official", and that the portraits needed to be sent from the "VA central office", whatever the heck that is.
Worse, when Rep. Mast called the hospital to find out what happened to the photos and why they were gone, he was told that President Trump was "not my president", meaning that whoever the moron was who said that apparently had the authority over who was and was not the president.
Now, I'll tell you that although I no longer travel for work, and so no longer visit Federal facilities, I always had to choke back bile when I would walk in and see grinning pictures of Barack Obama, a man I thought was trying to destroy America from the White House.
But he was the president! The nation, in my view, had ignorantly made him the president, and that's what he was. I would never have thought to take the photograph down while he was serving, although I would have volunteered to be first in line to take it down one second after he left office.
Well, it is time for reality to set in. I would have wished that President Trump had said nothing at all about this issue; he cannot possibly gain by doing so (update ... a few minutes ago, he did). But the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, should act immediately with the following letter to each and every head of each and every VA hospital and each and every VA facility in the USA:
Dear Sir or Madam,
You have been sent the official portraits of the President, Vice President and VA Secretary. You will post those portraits immediately, as in today, in the places authorized in your facility. I will personally inform the nation's veterans, who have fought for our country and too often have waited far too long for care in your facilities, of this notice so that they can ensure the portraits are in place.
If I receive a confirmed report that the portraits are not where they should be, your employment will be terminated immediately, and the person removing them will be terminated as well. VA facilities are no place for political statements.
U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs
David Shulkin, Secretary
I think that would probably get the point across, don't you?
By the way, as of this morning, the portraits are back on the wall at VA West Palm Beach.
Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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