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Shinseki Slated to Head VA, Obama Confirms

Updated 6:50 p.m.
By Philip Rucker and Thomas E. Ricks
Retired Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki will be introduced tomorrow as President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, a Democratic official familiar with the announcement said today.

Obama confirmed that Shinseki was his choice In an exclusive interview with NBC News, taped for broadcast on "Meet the Press." Obama called Shinseki "exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home."

Shinseki, a 38-year veteran, is best known for his four years as Army chief of staff, and in particular his response to congressional questioning in February 2003 about troop levels necessary to protect a presumed military victory in Iraq.

Shinseki told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" could be necessary, an assessment that was at odds with the announced determination of Pentagon leaders.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reacted by telling reporters that Shinseki's estimate "will prove to be high," and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz called the assessment "way off the mark."

Three years later, Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command and the chief architect of U.S. military strategy in Iraq, told the same Senate committee, "General Shinseki was right." And in January 2007, President Bush ordered tens of thousands of U.S. troops back into Iraq to stabilize and secure the country.

Obama concurred with Abizaid's view in the "Meet the Press" interview, saying of Shinseki, "He was right."

Shinseki retired in the summer of 2003, shortly after the fall of Baghdad. Neither Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz attended his farewell ceremony.

Notably Shinseki led the Army at the same time that Obama's nominee as national security adviser, then-Marine commandant Gen. James L. Jones. Both questioned Wolfowitz's presumptions, before the war in Iraq commenced, about how the fighting would go, and they argued that Pentagon planning was being too optimistic and should prepare thoroughly for worst-case scenarios.

The politics around the planned nomination are intriguing. Shinseki has maintained a near-total silence since leaving the Pentagon. However, earlier this year, a letter he wrote to Rumsfeld in June 2003 leaked. In it, Shinseki criticized Rumsfeld for not letting the Joint Chiefs of Staff "express their best military judgment as often as they should." He also said that the way Rumsfeld and other top civilian officials ran meetings was "unhelpful."

Also, there long has been speculation inside the Army that Shinseki, who was severely wounded in Vietnam, is interested in running for the Senate when Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), an 84-year-old World War II veteran, decides to retire.

Shinseki, a 66-year-old native of Kauai, told the Associated Press in 2005, "I intend to move back to Hawaii. It's just a question of when."

Since retiring from the Army, he has joined the boards of Honeywell International and Ducommun, both companies focused on military contracting. He also is on the board of the Hawaiian companies Grove Farm Corp. and First Hawaiian Bank.

By Post Editor  |  December 6, 2008; 6:19 PM ET
Categories:  Cabinet , National Security  
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James A. Swanson, Los Altos, CA [for FREE download of entire book]

As a progressive, I’m alarmed that Obama has appointed so many business-as-usual centrist politicians.

But I’m completely enthusiastic about his pick of Army General Eric Shinseki to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Progressive transformation of America must be driven from the grassroots up, not from the “top down” by career politicians.

Electing Obama was the easy part. The tough work begins today, and again tomorrow, and again each day thereafter.

The lobbyists for Big Media, Big Oil, Big Insurance, Big Pharma and the Military Industrial Complex have not left town.

We must stay engaged, take names, and never give up.

We know what to expect from GOP Neanderthals in Congress. They are thus “reliable.” As for our Democratic leaders, we trust them at our peril.

We must keep our friends close, our enemy closer, and our Democratic leaders closest.

Posted by: jimswanson | December 8, 2008 10:17 PM | Report abuse

No Colin Powell please. That guy has absolutely no credibility left. I don't care for why he did what he did. I just know that he lied to the world while representing the U.S.

Posted by: reefer | December 8, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

General Shinseki is a brilliant choice. Although his portfolio will be the VA, Obama choices of Shinseki, Jones, Gates & hopefully Powell, in the Cabinet demonstrates his comittment to the military. Having so many military "heavyweights" in the Cabinet who can speak on all issues that will reflect on the "war on terrorism"; military, industrial, and intelligence is pure genius. As for those other geniuses who are so concerned about the color or source of those military "cowpatties", I can't can't figure out why we ever felt the need to copy other countries military uniforms, or headgear to look sharp or build morale. Speaking as an old soldier god bless the marines for sticking to their own traditions of dress.

Posted by: mallen2 | December 8, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

A great choice even though some of us were hoping for Tammy Duckworth.

Posted by: gwcox2 | December 7, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

BREAKING Video from the Lipman Times (Comprehensive coverage of the Obama Administration):

Hillary is back on SNL...and Bill is With Her! From Last Night:

Posted by: caraprado1 | December 7, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

We have journalists expressing concern about the educational credentials of Obama picks so far. Here is an example where debate and a little respect,(they were mad at him for disagreeing and expressing his concerns?), would have been helpful. And whether these men, and gentleman, were all Ivy League educated would not have mattered because it was the character not intellect that ruled. So can we not assume that Obama is choosing those who, for example might have listened to Shinseki, not a body with degrees? I think we voted for Obama because it was understood that he would choose character over resume impression.

Posted by: zenobiadarcy | December 7, 2008 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Ah Har!! Finally a REAL GENERAL!!!!!

Viet Nam Vet!!!!!!

Posted by: knjincvc | December 7, 2008 12:31 AM | Report abuse

I have just consulted my crystal ball.

Caroline Kennedy as Congress Woman from New York.

Biden withdraws from second Obama administration. Obama picks Caroline Kennedy as VEEP.

Kennedy runs for POTUS in 2016. Palin who?

Michele Obama to Supreme Court for Ginsberg seat.

Posted by: theodosia1 | December 6, 2008 9:31 PM | Report abuse

This guy is awesome. Finally Obama is getting someone good. This guy has experience! Check out

Posted by: GloomBoomDotcom | December 6, 2008 9:30 PM | Report abuse

[Article Quote] Obama concurred with Abizaid's view in the "Meet the Press" interview, saying of Shinseki, "He was right." [End Quote]

That's right Baracko, he was right ... and you were wrong. In case you forgot, you were a fifth columnist in the House, and later on the campaign trail while some of us were in Iraq. We’ll always remember the garbage you spewed about us while we were downrange. Regardless, it all worked out, no thanks to you, and those nitwits, Pelosi, and Reid.

Congratulations General Shinseki. We know that you will carry on the proud accomplishments of your successor managing the nation’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs in spite of the administration you'll have to work for.

Posted by: palmettonajjar | December 6, 2008 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Thank God! With the selection of Gen Shinseki and his other picks, the (intelligent) adults have come back to town!

Posted by: thinkfirst1 | December 6, 2008 9:05 PM | Report abuse

I sincerely hope he will do a remarkable job for our veterans. What we have had in the past is certanly lacking. In fact, it has often been a source of shame. Good luck, sir, and my sincere best wishes.

Posted by: bginNC | December 6, 2008 8:56 PM | Report abuse

ANOTHER kick-a$$ appointment by Obama!


you know what? this Obama administration might work!

Posted by: DriveByPoster | December 6, 2008 8:36 PM | Report abuse

I had thought a man of Gen Shinseki's caliber would be right for Secretary of Defence. For Veterans' affairs, American friends tell me for sure Bill Clinton is the logical choice.

Posted by: HassanAliAl-Hadoodi | December 6, 2008 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Obama has a great legal mind. If you have a serious legal case then you want an experienced person to oppose your strategy. The experienced opposition helps you to adjust, prepare, and strengthen your strategy. Then you can plan for and anticipate your opposition's strategies.

Mr. Obama has insulated himself from a single foreign policy point of view (Clinton). General Shinseki at Veterans Affairs, General Jones as National Security, and Mr. Gates as SECDEF. His ace in the hole is Gen. Colin Powell.

Mr. Eric Holder as Attorney General is a good pick. Mr. Obama is a Constitutional expert. Michele Obama is well versed in Constitutional issues. Once again Mr. Obama has insulated himself against a single legal point-of-view. He has the legal mind to assess the constitutionality of proposals from the Attorney General.

Mr. Obama - this guy is good.

Posted by: theodosia1 | December 6, 2008 8:20 PM | Report abuse

An outstanding leader and soldier, GEN Shinseki is the best selection to lead Veterans Affairs. I hope that he finds a career in the Senate after this tour.

BTW, B202, there isn't going to be any war crimes tribunal for Rumsfeld or any other Bush administration official. If our elected politicians were subject to that jeopardy, then Bill Clinton would have stood in the dock for his abandonment of our soldiers in Somalia. Get over it, idiot. Shinseki would not have accepted such an assignment; witness his silence on Rumsfeld since his retirement. Your comment is disrespectful of all military officers who accept and support the Constitution and the civilian control of our armed forces.

Posted by: hisroc | December 6, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Obama's selections are strategic and beautifully thought out. Shinseki is an excellent choice and one who will make all veterans proud. Obama is truly for the American G.I., something that Bush, McCain, and Company only gave phony lip service to.

Posted by: aeaustin | December 6, 2008 7:33 PM | Report abuse

This is simply a magnificent selection. Kudos....

Posted by: Carlpaguy | December 6, 2008 7:25 PM | Report abuse

God damn it, this pick had me yelping in excitement. Our military veterans deserved nothing less than someone willing to tell truth to power no matter the cost. Very few men are honorable, and Gen Shinseki is part of that few.

Posted by: Penseur | December 6, 2008 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Too funny- our current Idiot in Chief fired him for speaking the truth about Iraq... anybody who Bush fires MUST be competent and honest, LOL!

Posted by: losthorizon10 | December 6, 2008 7:17 PM | Report abuse

General Shinseki is an excellent choice for Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Putting him in the cabinet positions him well to advise Obama on both veteran's issues and military or defense issues.

Posted by: pbarnett52 | December 6, 2008 7:10 PM | Report abuse

he sounds pragmatic, but his corporate affiliations are suspect.

oh well, so much for our progressive wishlist. get ready to fund the hundreds of thousands of gulf war vets, america.

it will cost TRILLIONS to do it right.

Posted by: forestbloggod | December 6, 2008 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Shinseki's a smart guy, but I kind of hoped he would be chosen to preside over Donald Rumsfeld's war crimes tribunal instead. Rumsfeld knowingly sold the American public a bill of goods, according to various books that have come out. He's clearly responsible for hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq.

Posted by: B2O2 | December 6, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

My husband just reminded me:
Let us not forget the men serving in Afghanistan.
They have been neglected on the field; soon perhaps, they will get better support.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | December 6, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Retired Gen. Shinseki will be an excellent head of Veterans' Affairs.
Maybe now, we can get good treatment for our disabled returning veterans of the Gulf and Iraqi Wars.
We owe these men for their brave service and the physical and mental damages they sustained.
They deserve our best; they gave their best.
-- a military wife of a 33-year veteran, retired.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | December 6, 2008 6:54 PM | Report abuse

As a conservative I keep looking for reasons not to like this new President we have just elected, and Barak Obama keeps giving me reasons to like and support him. He couldn't have picked a better man than Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to run Veterans affairs.

Posted by: Homunculus | December 6, 2008 6:49 PM | Report abuse

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