SHORTCHANGING THE VA….Incompetence, self-delusion, or political cowardice? You be the judge:

The Bush administration disclosed yesterday that it had vastly underestimated the number of service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan seeking medical treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and warned that the health care programs will be short at least $2.6 billion next year unless Congress approves additional funds.

Michael Froomkin votes for cowardice:

I suspect this is worse than incompetence: This shortfall may not be unexpected at all. I wouldn?t be surprised if it were intentional. By not appropriating money in the regular or even the supplemental Iraq appropriation, the administration avoided having to admit they expected any casualties in Iraq ? much less estimating how many there might be.

It sounds like a combination of all three to me. It’s one more piece of evidence that the Bushies really did expect a cakewalk in Iraq and didn’t bother planning for additional casualties. Then, when it became impossible to ignore the truth any longer, they stalled, afraid to tacitly produce an estimate for future casualties that conflicted with their rosy public message that things were getting better all the time. Finally, a couple of months ago, they ran out of options.

This is a pathetic performance from an administration that pretends to care about national security. Bush can give all the primetime speeches he wants about his duty to our troops, but stuff like this makes it obvious that he’s willing to throw that duty aside if it means taking even a tiny political risk on their behalf. What’s more, congressional Republicans, who have been warned about this repeatedly by both Democrats and fellow Republicans, are equally culpable, despite their shocked professions of anger and embarrassment yesterday.

War supporters, of course, will now join hands and say it was all just an honest mistake. I can’t wait.

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