Both are inspired choices -- Dole is a disabled vet himself and Shalala not only oversaw HHS, but was the president of Hunter College, Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, and currently serves as president of the University of Michigan. She has the institutional administrative experience for the job.
But, here's the problem, the Bush administration has a history of putting together blue ribbon panels, then completely ignoring them. Remember the 9/11 commission? Bush made a big deal about putting that together, read the recommendations, then told them, "Yeah, I'm not going to do that." The Iraq Study Group got the same treatment. After submitting the results of their study, Bush ignored it and announce he was going to do this big Hail Mary surge thing. Screw the ISG.
So you could be excused for thinking that this new Dole/Shalala Panel will do a lot of good work that will be ignored. Bush uses these reviews to provide political cover. He probably already knows what he's going to do and, when Dole and Shalala submit their report, he'll scratch out the parts he doesn't agree with and tell everyone that X and Y were recommended by the panel. He doesn't look for new ideas, he looks for points of agreement and ignores everything else.
One thing the panel may recommend is using federal employees, instead of private firms, for maintenance. Bush wouldn't like that one bit. A tertiary reason for invading Iraq was to set up a model of a state run by conservative ideology -- Iraq now has a flat tax, for example. That way, future conservatives can say, "Golly, look how well this is working in Iraq... Maybe we should do it here." In fact, the Heritage Foundation is already trying to convince people that a flat tax is working great in Iraq -- when the truth is that nothing's working in Iraq. If you ask the average iraqi what they're most thankful for at any given moment, they'll probably say either one more day of life or lunch. A flat tax is going to be pretty damned low on the list.
There's no way that Bush would accept the idea that maybe privatizing all things governmental is a bad idea. That would mean that ideology is wrong. The cult mindset of the modern conservative movement won't allow that. What's a matter of faith is a matter of fact. Ronald Reagan, like Jesus, was right about everything. That recommendation would go nowhere.
Another idea might be to limit how long a vet can be kept on medical hold. Often, veterans are given a choice; you can leave now and get no benefits or you can sit in a military hospital, getting jacked around and living in squalor, until they finally release you. It's a waiting game the military uses to frustrate veterans into abandoning their benefits. Both the Iraq War and benefits for the disabled veterans it creates are extremely expensive. Something's got to give and it's not going to be the war.
In the end, Bob Dole and Donna Shalala will be wasted on this panel. That is, unless congress takes the lead in implementing the recommendations. The 9/11 commission and Baker-Hamilton had to deal with a Bush-friendly congress. Dole and Shalala won't have that impediment. If you think Bush's veto of the stem cell bill hurt republicans, wait until Bush vetoes the Disabled Veterans' Bill of Rights.
That's really gonna smart.
Technorati tags: politics; military; Iraq; Walter Reed; Bob Dole; Donna Shalala; if Bush is given a choice between veterans and conservative ideology, we both know what he'll choose