It’s U.S. lawmakers who have gotten in the way of the government providing proper care to the nation’s veterans, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Daily Show host Jon Stewart on Wednesday.
“Why is it so difficult to take care of our men and women when they come home in the manner that they deserve?” Stewart asked Gates. “Why can we mobilize so quickly and so well for intervention but not for backlogs of paperwork?”
“I write in the book that the only bureaucracy that is more intractable than the Department of Defense is Veterans Affairs,” Gates answered, endorsing the work of current secretary Eric Shinseki.
“Congress has micro-managed Veterans Affairs in such a way that changing anything that has to do with dealing with veterans requires, literally, an act of Congress,” Gates continued, adding that pilot programs would have to be shelved because expanding them meant changing existing law.
Stewart noted that congressional inertia figures heavily in Gates’ latest book, which chronicles his service under George W. Bush and Barack Obama’s respective presidential administrations.
“Congress, almost universally, comes out looking venal and small,” Stewart told Gates. “And I thought, ‘Boy, that’s accurate.’”
Stewart observed that, behind the scenes, lawmakers dealing with Gates show thoughtfulness, only to become “braying idiots” in public view.
“I say in the book that the effect of the red light of the television going on has the same effect on members of Congress as a full moon does on werewolves,” Gates noted, earning a laugh from Stewart.
Watch the interview, as posted online on Wednesday, below.