It goes without saying that the majority of NewsBusters articles concerning MSNBC’s Don Imus are not very positive towards the radio host. However, on Friday, Imus completely lit into Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) over some obvious hypocrisies regarding the current controversy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (h/t Larwyn and Macsmind).
What follows is a partial transcript posted at NewsMax. Frankly, it’s too much fun to interrupt with commentary. As such, roll the tape:
Imus: Have you been aware, even since 1981, of the state of treatment that veterans have been receiving throughout the Veterans Administration hospitals?
Schumer: Yes, it’s gotten much worse in the last seven or eight years because the funding was just cut, cut, cut, cut, cut. I get stories all the time of veterans wounded in Iraq, they get good treatment over in Iraq . . . The Veterans Administration has just been decimated in terms of funding and it’s unbelievable because . . . we ask these people to serve us and in the DoD part, at least in Iraq, and initially when they are wounded from all reports they are treated well, after that they are just sort of forgotten about and the VA is just in terrible shape, terrible shape . . . It’s a little like FEMA with Katrina. They put the wrong people in charge. They don’t really care.
Imus: Senator Schumer, you’re not suggesting to me that this is something that just happened under the Bush administration. This has been going on since Korea, since the second world war.
Schumer: It’s been going on for a while, but what happened with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is that the system got completely overloaded and it really broke down.
Imus: We’ve known for years, certainly since 1981, that the care and the way that these veterans have been treated to a large degree, not because it’s the people’s fault — most of them, the doctors and nurses particularly at the Veterans Administration — but for a variety of reasons, in many cases, their treatment and care has been woefully inadequate.
The bureaucratic red tape has been a nightmare for a lot of these people, and that’s been going on for years, and my question is why haven’t any of you ever done anything about it?
Schumer: Well, we’ve tried. I’ve been fighting since I got to the Senate for full funding for the veterans, and we didn’t do any oversight. That’s the real problem here . . . I’ll tell you one other thing that will happen. We’ll get full funding for the VA this year, for the first time. We did actually, to show you a little bit that this isn’t just catching up to the crisis, we did a budget in early January . . .
Imus: Let me interrupt you for a second, but this is nonsense, Senator Schumer. I want to be respectful, but you can’t possibly be serious and suggest — I mean I’m not a fool. You can’t suggest to me that because the Democrats are now in power that something is going to be done about Walter Reed and about the mess in the Veterans Administration and all of this, and that if the Democrats hadn’t taken control of Congress that nothing would have been done. That’s preposterous; of course it would have.
Schumer: Well, something would have been done if the story would have gotten out . . .
Imus: Here’s another question. Have you ever been over to Walter Reed?
Schumer: Ahh, not in a while, no.
Imus: How long has it been since you’ve been over there?
Schumer: Oh, before Iraq.
Imus: So, before Iraq since you’ve been over to see the soldiers. So, we have elected you — first in the Congress and now in the Senate — and you’ve got a bill now to do something we’ll get to in a minute; but you haven’t even been to Walter Reed Hospital.
Schumer: No, no, no. But I have visited regularly the veterans' hospitals throughout my state. That’s where I have focused on . . .
Imus: Well, you must have seen the state of affairs there . . .
Schumer: I did.
Imus: Well why didn’t you do something about it?
Schumer: We did . . . I did . . . I tried, I have been pushing . . .
Imus: Well nothing happened, Senator.
Schumer: No, nothing happened, I agree with you. It’s a shame. It’s a disgrace.
Imus: Did you vote to authorize the president to go to war in Iraq?
Imus: Good . . . So why wouldn’t you, once you voted for the president to go to war in Iraq, why wouldn’t you go over to Walter Reed — since the Iraq war has begun its been going on longer than World War II — to see the consequence of your vote. They are over there with no arms and legs, Senator.
Schumer: I did see the consequence throughout my state. I went to many, many veterans’ hospitals there. Did I visit every veterans' hospital? No, but I spent a lot of time; I mean, three weeks before this crisis happened, I was throughout the cities of my state meeting with guardsmen and reservists about the bad benefits they got in terms of health care.
Imus: But you need to go see the kids with no arms and legs . . .
Schumer: I am going to go to Walter Reed. You know, probably I should have gone there . . .
Imus: Without question, you should have . . .
Schumer: . . . but I did visit many veterans’ hospitals.
Imus: Was your vote originally to authorize the president to go to war in Iraq, in retrospect, was that a mistake on your part?
Schumer: Well, you know we talked about this a few times when I was on the show. Looking in retrospect, Iraq has been a total mess.
I do always believe, you know, when the nation is attacked you try to give the chief executive some latitude, a little bit of the benefit of the doubt, but I’ll never give this guy the benefit of the doubt again. We are putting — I don’t know if you saw the papers this morning — we’re putting together a plan, hopefully we’ll get some bipartisan support, that we changed the mission and the vast majority of troops are out by March 31, 2008.
Schumer: No, we were not attacked by Iraq.
Schumer: Well, again, I would say that I do believe in a strong chief executive in foreign policy. Would I, knowing what I know now, have done the same thing I did then? Obviously not.
Imus: Well, the first thing you’ve got to do is find time to go over to Walter Reed . . . That’s outrageous.
Schumer: I’ve already tried to set up time to do that. You’re right. Look, I don’t want to argue with you here. I see these pictures, I’ve talked to the families. I talk to the families in my state. It wrenches your heart out. Fine people. And, you know, so many.
With so much of the fighting being done by guardsmen and reservists — they are often family men and women with young children — our job is to care for them. Our job is to care for them. The nation has let them down, and hopefully that won’t happen again.
Imus: We elect you people to do this and none of you have been truthful with us, and none of you have done your job. In your case, you haven’t even been over there. I mean, Senator McCain apologized yesterday for not knowing about it. I, by the way, don’t exclude myself from all of this, because I’ve been to Walter Reed and I’ve raised tens of millions of dollars to build that new Center for the Intrepid down in San Antonio, and I didn’t ask any questions either, but I wasn’t elected by anybody.
Schumer: We should always be asking questions about as many, many of these issues as we can, and you’re right. It’s a national disgrace. I feel bad, I think everybody feels bad. We should — no question about it. The way to channel that is to make sure that in the future it changes . . .
Absolutely marvelous. What’s the likelihood of any Democrat being so grilled on the Sunday talk shows tomorrow?
I'm not holding my breath.
Update: Despite the good job Imus did, I wish he would have jumped on Schumer's fallacious suggestions that the Republicans and the Bush administration have underfunded the VA. As one can plainly see from the budget information supplied by OMB, the VA budget in 2001 was $45 billion. In 2007, it is $72 billion, a 60 percent increase. This is one of the largest six-year increases since this agency was created, and completely refutes Schumer's bogus position.