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Mark Warner, Tim Kaine weigh in on Lloyd Austin health controversy

Chris Graham
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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is listed in good condition at Walter Reed, according to a statement from the Department of Defense on Sunday.

“We have no updates to provide at this time regarding his release from the hospital but will continue to provide daily updates until then,” Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in the statement.

Yep, that’s it.

Pressure is coming in from far and wide, both sides of the aisle, the media, the defense establishment, for President Biden to punish … somebody … for the revelation that Austin had been hospitalized in intensive care after complications from prostate cancer surgery for four days, and no one knew – not even Biden.

This would be breach of protocol even in peacetime, if there’s ever really a peacetime, but given the wide range of conflicts currently involving the U.S. military – Ukraine, Israel, let’s see, what else, Yemen, Iraq – it does feel like somebody’s head needs to roll.

The question being, whose?

“I would like to get additional information, but I have to tell you, what happened is, frankly, I don’t understand how this could happen,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a Thursday teleconference. “You know, somebody that high in the chain of command, there had to have been people around him that knew he was in the hospital, and some of those people should have relayed to the White House. I think that behavior can never happen again, and I think you’ve already seen the chief of staff in the White House lay out to all the Cabinet secretaries, if you are incapacitated, in any way, you want to let folks know.”

“I don’t think it would be warranted for him to resign,” said U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a separate teleconference, also on Thursday. “He’s a superb public servant. This is really out of character, and I have a hard time explaining or understanding it. Because General and now Secretary Austin, if there’s one thing he understands, it’s chain of command, and in the chain of military command, you keep your superiors informed, and you keep your key subordinates informed. And in this case, in this instance, he did not either keep his the White House, the president who nominated him for the position, or key subordinates informed about his health condition. And, you know, I don’t know the secretary well enough to get into his mind and explain why. I do think a lot of men are reticent to talk about issues dealing with prostate cancer. And that’s been a general issue. I don’t know if that was the issue, but I do know from, you know, just friends, that that can be a sensitive topic.”

Compounding the issue was that Kathleen Hicks, the No. 2 in the Pentagon, was on vacation as Austin was incapacitated from Jan. 1 to Jan. 5, when the DoD finally revealed what was going on.

“We are in the middle of two very challenging military engagements right now, one in the Middle East, where whether it’s Israel, Gaza, or Houthis firing missiles at commercial ships, or Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria and Iraq, striking near U.S. personnel, that’s a really intense one. And then we are providing military assistance in really important and meaningful ways to Ukraine in their effort to defend themselves against the illegal invasion by Russia,” Kaine said.

“In the middle of those two, in particular, where the U.S. military is so key, Secretary Austin should have kept folks informed. He’s been blunt about, I should have kept folks informed, and he said, it’s not going to happen again. And my understanding is, the Biden administration has also now issued a directive to all the Cabinet secretary and key agency personnel about the fact that this needs to be done. It was a mistake.

“It shouldn’t happen again, but I don’t expect that it will happen again,” Kaine said.

Warner appears to be as reluctantly forgiving, as long as something like what happened never happens again.

“It appears as the story comes out that he was in for a prostate cancer process, and he didn’t expect to have the complications arise. But that still begs the fact that he should have let the White House and the balance of the security establishment know about that fact, and this should never happen again,” Warner said.

“In terms of future actions, I want to, again, give the White House the benefit, they’d have to get all of the facts out first on what happened, but on a going forward basis, it should be explicitly clear that this should become a firing offense, if you don’t allow the balance of the chain of command and your president who appointed you, if you’re out of commission, you ought to let folks know,” Warner said.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].