President Trump’s obsessive veneration of the military is a crucial component of his fascistic brand of toxic nationalism, but when it comes to actually supporting our veterans with something more substantial than empty boasts, it’s obvious that he couldn’t care less about them.
That much was made obvious when a stunning ProPublica report revealed that the President has been letting a secret cabal of three men make major decisions in the Veterans Affairs administration without any experience or actually holding jobs in the government.
In one of the most flagrant examples of pay-for-play in an administration already notorious for rampant corruption and grifting by everyone in it, all three men are members of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.
Brian Moskowitz is a Palm Beach doctor, Ike Perlmutter is the CEO of Marvel Entertainment — that’s right, the comic book company — and Marc Shermer is a lawyer, but for the past two years they’ve formed an “informal council” that has “leaned on VA officials and steered policies affecting millions of Americans.”
While all involved denied that the men did anything more than “offer advice and share ideas” with government officials, thousands of Freedom of Information Act documents reveal that the three men, known as the “Mar-a-Lago Crowd” to the staffers at the VA, communicated with VA officials every day, “reviewing all manner of policy and personnel decisions” and pushing the VA to start new programs — and running to Trump to complain if they didn’t get their way.
ProPublica’s discovery is a breathtaking tale of how the department in charge of grappling with a suicide epidemic and the task of providing quality healthcare to the millions of veterans that our endless imperial wars produce was handed over to three ornery patrician buffoons who were enormously unqualified to for the task they had purchased for themselves.
“Former administration officials say that VA leaders who were at odds with the Mar-A-Lago Crowd were pushed out or passed over at times… Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman have created headaches for VA officials because of their failure to follow government rules and processes. In other cases, they used their influence in ways that could benefit their private interests.”
Perlmutter, Moskowitz and Sherman acted like board members pounding a CEO to turn around a struggling company, a former administration official said.
The Mar-a-Lago Crowd bombarded VA officials with demands, many of them inapt or unhelpful. On phone calls with VA officials, Perlmutter would bark at them to move faster, having no patience for bureaucratic explanations about why something has to be done a certain way or take a certain amount of time, former officials said.
It goes without saying that this is unparalleled in the history of the U.S. government and likely the beginning of a scandal that might even inspire serious pushback from Republicans and the Trump base, both of which fetishize our veterans as ardently as the President does — except they actually mean it.
Caring for our wounded and traumatized veterans is a sacred duty and it is disgusting to see the President pawn off that duty to his rich friends who want to play at government and advance their own personal interests. While preposterous hypocrisy is nothing new from Trump at this point, this is a sin so heinous that even he might not be able to walk away from it.