In other wars, in other eras, Eric K. Shinseki might have been an ideal fit to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs through a crisis. He’s run some of Washington’s biggest and most complex bureaucracies. He knows what it’s like to fight back from life-changing war wounds, having lost half a foot to a land mine in Vietnam. He prefers to stay out of politics and work on problems quietly and in the background.
“He’s not a political infighter. That’s absolutely not him,” said retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, a long-time mentor. “If you asked him to define the perfect public servant, it would be a quiet professional.”
The question facing President Obama as he seeks to contain yet another widening VA scandal is whether quiet and resolute professionalism still works in an age of noisy disputation.