President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs has a long history in government, but being a Veteran is not part of his credentials. Instead, Denis McDonough is yet another re-enlistment of an Obama era operative who has come to populate the current administration’s team.
While Secretary McDonough does not have military experience, he does have plenty of bureaucratic experience and ties to Joe Biden’s first stay in the White House as Vice President. This includes serving as Obama’s Deputy National Security advisor from 2010 until 2013. Most notably, McDonough was Obama’s Chief of Staff throughout the duration of his second term.
An anonymous source within the Biden transition team voiced Biden’s confidence in McDonough as someone who, “helped lead the Obama-Biden administration’s work on behalf of military families and veterans and earned the trust of the president-elect as a first-class manager with the knowledge and vision to deliver results.”
What the Biden team didn’t want to focus on were the failures and humiliations of Obama’s second term in which McDonough was his Chief of Staff.
This would include the infamous “Red Line” threat made to the regime of Bashar Al-Assad while the Syrian Civil War raged under Obama’s watch.
The Atlantic notes that in 2012, Barack Obama, when discussing the possibility of US intervention in Syria, declared “a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
The next year chemical weapons were used, nothing was done.
The Obama Administration did, however, manage to negotiate a reduction in the regime’s chemical stockpiles. McDonough defended the “Red Line” debacle, citing this accomplishment: “I think that’s a very important outcome. And particularly, as we saw this week, the depravity of this president, President Assad, to use those weapons against the most vulnerable people in his country.”
But the unfortunate reality is that Obama’s threat was hollow and the country was humiliated on the world stage. President Assad’s blatant disregard for the Obama Administration’s will to act against these war crimes was a signal to the rest of the world that America had become impotent.
It is not that America wanted more war in Syria, it is that the President wrote a check that he was unwilling or unable to cash.
McDonough was part of the decision-making process as Obama’s Chief of Staff and this indecision and ineffectiveness reflects directly back on to him as well.
Now he is back in the halls of power, heading the Veteran’s Affairs Department for a man whose previous administration covered up the most outrageous mistreatment of Veterans in our nation’s modern history.