AP reporter Julie Pace on Wednesday night predicted Hillary Clinton’s comment that problems with the VA are overblown will continue to follow the candidate as she navigates through the Democratic primary and into the general election, should she get the nomination.
"The Hillary Clinton comment, sometimes when you do this job you hear a candidate say something and you just know that that is something that is going to trail her through Election Day next year if she is the eventual Democratic nominee," Pace said on Special Report with Bret Baier.
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Clinton drew criticism from Republicans and veterans' groups for dismissing scandals plaguing the VA under the Obama administration. When she was asked how she would fix the healthcare system set up to help the nation’s veterans, the Democratic frontrunner blamed Republicans for using the VA for political gain.
"It's not been as widespread as it has been made out to be," Clinton said on The Rachel Maddow Show just over two weeks ago. "Now nobody would believe that from the coverage you see, and the constant berating of the VA that comes from the Republicans, in part in pursuit of this ideological agenda that they have. They try to create a downward spiral, don’t fund it to the extent that it needs to be funded, because they want it to fail, so then we can argue for privatization."
Just days earlier, CNN reported major delays within the VA system as appointment times were not getting any better. In 2014, the VA’s inspector general found inappropriate practices were systemic in all of the department’s facilitates.
"You look at the numbers, and I think is really hard to argue that this isn't a systemic widespread problem," Pace said.
Veterans groups immediately responded to Clinton’s remarks.
"Hillary Clinton has shown that just like the Obama administration, of which she was a part, she will minimize the deep-rooted problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs and engage in partisan attacks against those who propose real and fundamental reform," Pete Hegseth of Concerned Veterans for America said in a statement.
Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer suggested Clinton, and Democrats in general, wanted to undermine the faults at the VA in order to prevent the privatization of the department.
"A Democrat will never consider [vouchers] because it gives a person choice," Krauthammer said.