The story on the "Mar-a-Lago Crowd" is bupkiss

Jake Hughes
August 09, 2018 - 1:38 pm

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I hate politics. This should surprise no one, as I say that every chance I get. What might surprise you is it’s not politics in and of themselves. I get that we have to wheel and deal in life, and in the federal government, you need that process to make things work. It’s about compromise, baby, and I love that. I’m kind of a people pleaser.

No, when I say I dislike politics, I usually mean how seriously people take it. How people let it divide us and how it turns reasonable, relatively intelligent people into foaming-at-the-mouth idiots who will disown someone for daring to wear a “MAGA” hat or saying, “You know, Nancy Pelosi isn’t that bad.”

This effect is only made worse by our media, who always seem to have an agenda. According to the website Media Bias Fact Check, the list of “Least Biased” contains approximately zero of the major news networks. Yes, CNN, MSNBC, ABC/NBC News, Fox News, all of them have a bias.

Why am I saying all this? Because a report was recently published by the news website “ProPublica,” and it’s garnering nationwide attention. It claims to show how a trio of very powerful people is making all the decisions at the Department of Veteran Affairs. That all the former, or even presumptive, secretaries of the VA are ordered around by them. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has even said that he will arrange a panel to look into these claims. Honestly? It all sounds kinda scary.

Until you actually read the article. Then it just sounds silly.

It talks about three very rich people: Ike Perlmutter, the reclusive chairman of Marvel Entertainment, Bruce Moskowitz, a Palm Beach doctor who helps wealthy people obtain high-service “concierge” medical care, and a lawyer named Marc Sherman. It tells us these three—the “Mar-a-Lago Crowd” to sound extra spooky—are leaning on people at the VA to get laws passed. That all policy decision “have” to be run by them. That, “Everyone has to go down and kiss the ring,” according to one so-called “Inside Official.”

But when you read, you find the dragon has no teeth. First off, it uses intentionally inflammatory language to talk about them. "A Triumvirate," "a Cabal, "Shadow Rulers." Ooga-booga-booga!

Secondly, Early on in the article, it states that in many cases, the Mar-a-Lago Crowd, “Used their influence in ways that could benefit their private interests.” It then goes on to provide two example of this. One was when Moskowitz tried to get the VA to make an app to track medical data, and suggested, suggested, they let his son Aaron make it. Neither party would have stood to make any financial benefit from such a deal, though. But guess what? That deal didn’t even go through! The other tells the tale of Shulkin ringing the Wall Street bell alongside a costumed Spider-Man and Captain America. Um… okay? No ethics were breeched, apparently, so what’s the issue?

Or take this “harrowing” example: One of Perlmutter’s tennis buddies said her son was having trouble accessing his military medical records. It was eventually decided that because they were military health records, the problem was not with the VA, but with the DOD. Several months later, a big push to link electronic health records between DOD and the VA came about. So, you mean to tell me that this “cabal,” as the article says, heard of a problem a vet was having, brought it to the President and then Secretary Shulkin’s attention, and worked on fixing it?! The absolute fiends!

Over and over again, the article makes it sound like these three are directly making policy, and over and over, it fails to make such a case. Besides, haven't a lot fo the recent changes to VA policy been... kind of good? The Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, the expansion of the Choice program, more tele-health. Hell, if anything, these guys are helping!

See, it’s this kind of sensationalistic journalism that isn’t helping things. It leads to tweets like this woman, concerning her son’s tragic suicide:

But the problem is her claims are baseless. Nowhere in the article is it said in plain terms that the group even wants to privatize the VA. The fact is we don’t know what they want.

And therein lies the problem.

We have little information on these men. We don’t know their motivations. For all we know, the article could be right, and these three are some sort of puppet masters steering the VA to ruin. But we have seen little evidence of this. Perlmutter served in the Israeli Army, so maybe he does have the best interest of veterans at heart. As for the other two? We just can’t say.

This is troubling because these men have no oversight, are not beholden to any government agency, and have the ear of the President. But as of right now, that’s all they have: an ear. They have said countless times that they have the interests of vets in their minds, and that is written in the article, with a heavy tinge of “We have to write this, but we don’t want to.” This goes back to what I said at the beginning of this op-ed. The ProPublica article is so heavy-handed, and written with such an air of, “Oh! This is the worst threat to our democracy since… ever!

As it stands, we don’t have enough info to claim to know how much influence this so-called “Mar-a-Lago Crowd” really has in our government, or what their overall goal is. So please, calm down, do your research, and don‘t fall prey to predatory journalistic practices. Have a blessed day.