President Obama nominates new Secretary of Veterans Affairs
The White House is billing former Proctor & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald to head the VA – a job that used to be reserved for military top brass. The president calls him a transformational leader who can guide the scandal-ridden department through some of its worst times. The man who once made big bucks selling Tide laundry detergent and Crest toothpaste was a surprise pick as the new VA chief.
“At the VA, the veteran is our customer, and we must all focus all day, every day on getting them the benefits and the care that they’ve so earned,” said McDonald.
McDonald graduated top of his class at West Point and served five years in the Army, which the president underscored while talking about him Monday.
“Let me state the obvious: this is not going to be easy assignment. Bob knows that. But, like any army Airborne Ranger, Bob has a reputation for being ready and jumping into tough situations, taking charge and going all the way.”
Still, McDonald is best known for his career leading Proctor & Gamble; his common sense approach to business and innovation is laid out in a Youtube video.
“Where to play, how to win, what to do, and importantly, what not to do.”
The choice of McDonald may also be a political plus for the White House in its dealings with Congressional critics. He’s donated to Republicans including Mitt Romney and House Speaker John Boehner. And, he’s registered as a Republican. McDonald’s former company is headquartered in Boehner’s hometown of Cincinnati. Boehner’s been a harsh critic of the administration’s VA problems, but he praised McDonald in a statement. The White House is hoping McDonald can even appease people on the hill, who are calling for heads to roll at the VA.
“And there are some important changes that need to be made to ensure that that important work is actually getting done. And so, having somebody that has experience in the military, has strong bipartisan support for taking the job and has a proven track record of implementing changes in large organizations – to great effect – makes him the right choice for this task,” continued President Obama.
Paul Rieckhoff, Chief Executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America or IAVA, said he had mixed feelings about the choice:
“He doesn’t come from the military. He doesn’t come from the health care community. He doesn’t come from inside the VA. So, he is not a name that was on anyone’s radar. But, look, we need a turnaround artist. And if he’s got experience that can help turn around the VA, then that’s exactly what we’re going to need. Because the trust is broken.”
Even though he ran a successful company during tough economic times, McDonald’s time at Proctor & Gamble could come under scrutiny. Critics say he wasn’t focused enough on the company’s needs because he was serving on too many corporate boards.