On Tuesday, ThinkProgress released a video of Colorado Senate nominee Ken Buck (R) calling for privatizing veterans’ health care during a local Tea Party meeting in June. In the video, Buck tells supporters that the Veterans Administration hospital system would “be better run” if it were privatized. Watch it here:
Following our post, Buck has come under fire from veterans and news organizations like MSNBC. Keith Olbermann had particularly harsh words for Buck, saying that “VA hospitals are considered among the best in the country, and — in sticking to his inflexible, Tea Party, privatize-everything dogma — Ken Buck proposes screwing it up just to curry a few votes from easily-led conservatives.”
Responding to the firestorm, the Buck campaign is having trouble getting its story straight. At first, Buck stuck by his guns. According to campaign manager John Swartout:
Ken said that private companies do a better job than the government. Most people agree with Ken, that the government doesn’t always provide the best service. Take a look at Walter Reed.
However, the Denver Post notes that the Walter Reed Medical Center is run by the Department of Defense, not the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Following this misstep, the Buck campaign backtracked on the story, arguing that, while Buck believes VA hospitals would be improved if they were privatized, he doesn’t actually want them to be privatized. According to campaign spokesman Owen Loftus:
What Ken’s saying is that our veterans deserve the best, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a lot of people who would say the government does the best [job]. Ken is not for privatizing the VA hospitals.
Buck’s incoherent position on veterans health care is all the more alarming because, as ColoradoPols points out, the state has “460,000 veterans, with 4 major military installations heavily involved in two major wars (including the Colorado National Guard).”