Here are 4 Good Reasons to Keep Eric Shinseki, and 1 Very Good Reason to Fire Him


Should Eric Shinseki resign? Or be fired? There are several reasons to say no:

  • Knee-jerk calls for resignation from the guy at the top every time something goes wrong in a big bureaucracy are wearying.
  • Shinseki inherited a lot of problems, and there’s good evidence that he’s worked hard to improve things at the VA. The fact that some problems still remain is hardly damning.
  • The specific scandal involving secret waiting lists isn’t really a sign of bad management.
  • The tradition of top managers resigning as a symbolic show of responsibility is dumb. Let’s leave that to the British and the Japanese.

You may find all of these more or less persuasive depending on your general temperament. Personally, I find them all moderately persuasive. That said, there’s one really good reason for the guy at the top to resign when something like this happens: It’s a lot easier for a newcomer to make sweeping changes if that’s what’s necessary. No matter how committed Shinseki is to fixing this problem, he’s hemmed in by five years of decisions he’s already made. He’s emotionally committed to a certain way of doing things; to a certain set of subordinates; and to policies that he’s implemented. A new VA chief wouldn’t be. Nor would a new VA chief be under a cloud. He’d have the active support of Congress and the president to take a fresh look at things.

Unfortunately for Shinseki, this one reason is probably sufficient. In a sense, it’s unfair. Nonetheless, human nature being what it is, a new VA secretary would most likely have more freedom to make the changes necessary to fix the VA’s problems and more support to get them done. For that reason, yes, Shinseki should probably go.

UPDATE, Friday, May 30, 11:15am ET: President Obama is delivering a statement live from the White House.

UPDATE 2: Shinseki has resigned.

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Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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