Eric Shinseki ‘Promising Choice’ for Veterans Affairs

Originally posted yesterday on AsianAmericansForObama.com:

The Vietnam Veterans of America today described President-elect Obama’s selection of Gen. Eric Shinseki as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs a “promising choice” citing Shinseki’s “integrity and personal fortitude to usher in the real changes needed to make the VA a true steward of our nation’s veterans and their families.”

“Veterans of all political persuasions should take heart and applaud this choice,” said John Rowan, the organization’s national president.

Shinseki would be only the third Asian American appointed to a Cabinet position, following Norman Mineta’s tenure at both Commerce and Transportation and Elaine Chao’s stint at Labor.

Veterans Affairs is the second largest department in the federal government, established 20 years ago this coming March by President Reagan.

The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder mistakenly noted that Shinseki’s name was absent from any speculation of potential nominees. Dale Minami and Maeley Tom both mentioned Shinseki as a superbly qualified Cabinet member.

Shinseki’s appointment makes it less likely that Congressman Mike Honda, former Washington State Gov. Gary Locke or another high-profile Asian American would be tapped for a Cabinet position. Although it’s possible that Obama would select another Asian American member of the Cabinet — which would match Bush’s unprecented inclusion of two Asian Americans in the Cabinet (Mineta and Chao) — it’s more likely that the appointments to any remaining department heads will include more Latinos, African Americans and/or women.

In 2003, I had the privilege of spending about an hour with Gen. Shinseki and his wife Patricia at the annual convention of the Asian American Journalists Association.  I was responsible for convention public relations for the gathering in San Diego and Shinseki was our keynote speaker.

His speech before AAJA was one of the first public appearances following his retirement as Army Chief of Staff two months before and we discussed the parameters of media coverage on his talk. Because of the sensitivity related to media coverage of Shinseki and his predictions of troop levels needed for a post-9/11 Iraq military enagement, we decided that we would not allow C-SPAN coverage of his address, which was notreceived well by the honchos at C-SPAN.

Gen. Shinseki and I also discussed speculation that he was possible contender for the Hawai’i gubernatorial race of 2006, which eventually resulted in a match-up of my old boss, former state Sen. Randy Iwase and the incumbent GOP Gov. Linda Lingle.

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