For a man who wanted to keep his medical issues private, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has managed a botch job that is on par in terms of incompetence — if not perhaps in impact — with the Pentagon’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.
Austin, as you no doubt have heard (despite his attempts to keep that information from just about everyone, including the president he serves) was diagnosed with prostate cancer last month. After undergoing a prostatectomy, he was readmitted to the hospital on Jan. 1 and ended up in the intensive care unit.
Meanwhile, everyone apparently thought the guy was working from home — and, according to The Wall Street Journal, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathy Hicks didn’t even know he was hospitalized until four days after she had assumed some of his duties. (While she was on scheduled leave in Puerto Rico, it’s worth noting.)
President Joe Biden, meanwhile, didn’t find out about the secretary’s cancer diagnosis until Jan. 9 — the same day that the Department of Defense revealed it to the world in a statement.
“On December 22, 2023, after consultation with his medical team, [Austin] was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and underwent a minimally invasive surgical procedure called a prostatectomy to treat and cure prostate cancer,” the DOD news release read.
“On January 2, the decision was made to transfer him to the ICU for close monitoring and a higher level of care. Further evaluation revealed abdominal fluid collections impairing the function of his small intestines. … During this stay, Secretary Austin never lost consciousness and never underwent general anesthesia.”
This week, The Daily Beast obtained audio of the 911 call placed by one of Austin’s aides — meaning they, too, were part of the cover-up. In the audio, the aide asked that first responders “remain a little subtle” as they approached Austin’s residence.
So, for a man who says he was just trying to have a bit of privacy while Houthi rebels were attacking American ships, Hamas and Israel were still at war, so were Ukraine and Russia, and relations between Taiwan and China were threatening to worsen considerably over Taiwan’s Jan. 13 general election, we now know:
1) What his medical condition was.
2) The intricate details of why he was readmitted to the hospital.
3) The aides who lied for him.
4) The number of people who should have been informed but reportedly weren’t.
5) How ill-prepared everyone in Austin’s orbit was to keep this a secret.
And now, he’ll likely have to testify in front of Congress about the debacle — possibly the worst news he could get to put a cherry on top of this disaster sundae. Way to keep things private, Secretary Austin.
According to The Hill, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, an Alabama Republican, sent Austin a letter requesting his testimony on Capitol Hill on Feb. 14 regarding his absence.
“While you did respond to some of my questions I had for you, a concerning number of questions were not addressed,” the congressman wrote.
“Specifically, I am alarmed you refused to answer whether you instructed your staff to not inform the President of the United States or anyone else of your hospitalization,” he said. “Unfortunately, this leads me to believe that information is being withheld from Congress.
“Congress must understand what happened and who made decisions to prevent the disclosure of the whereabouts of a cabinet secretary. Your unwillingness to provide candid and complete answers necessitates calling a Full Committee hearing on February 14, 2024, where the Committee expects to hear your direct testimony regarding decisions made to withhold information from the President, Congress, and the American people.”
According to Rogers’ letter, a total of 18 questions posed to Austin, Hicks and Austin’s chief of staff, Kelly Magsamen, had gone unanswered.
The congressman said Austin did not provide an accounting of “orders or instructions issued by you or a member of your staff to inform or not inform any other person of your hospitalization or medical condition” or a “detailed account of your actions and intent in transferring your duties to Deputy Secretary Hicks and the context conveyed to her about the reason for the transfer of duties.”
He also didn’t specify what military operations were “carried out in the United States Central Command area of responsibility during any period from December 22, 2023 to January 5, 2024, while you were not acting in the role of Secretary of Defense,” or whether there were other periods “that coincided with medical procedures or other medical activities rendering you unable to perform such duties” during his time as secretary, the letter said.
Hicks, meanwhile, didn’t specify whether she was “given a timeline or indication of how long the transfer of authority to her as acting Secretary of Defense would last” or when she was “first aware that the President did not know that you were in the hospital.”
Magsamen — who plays a critical role in the Austin affair because her alleged bout with the flu was what reportedly stymied communication to White House officials that Austin was in the hospital — did not specify the period she was out with the flu or whether she sent official correspondence while she was purportedly sick, two questions Rogers said he asked in his letter to her.
“This is a time of immense global instability,” the congressman wrote. “Our country deserves reliable leadership at the Department. Maintaining the most ready and lethal force possible requires that everyone in the national security community be able to rely upon the Secretary of Defense’s availability and transparency.
“Regrettably, you have not exhibited these attributes throughout this most recent string of events.
“Therefore, you are invited to testify before the House Committee on Armed Services at a hearing on February 14, 2024, at 10:00 a.m., in room 2118 of Rayburn House Office Building. I appreciate your willingness to appear before the committee and look forward to your testimony.”
If and when Austin does appear before the House Armed Services Committee, it won’t just be a partisan bicker-fest. At least two committee Democrats have called for Austin’s dismissal.
In a Wednesday post on X, Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Chris Deluzio said, “I have lost trust in Secretary Lloyd Austin’s leadership of the Defense Department due to the lack of transparency about his recent medical treatment and its impact on the continuity of the chain of command.”
“I have a solemn duty in Congress to conduct oversight of the Defense Department through my service on the House Armed Services Committee. That duty today requires me to call on Secretary Austin to resign,” he continued. “I thank Secretary Austin for his leadership and years of dedicated service to the American people and wish him a speedy recovery.”
I have lost trust in Secretary Lloyd Austin’s leadership of the Defense Department due to the lack of transparency about his recent medical treatment and its impact on the continuity of the chain of command.
— Congressman Chris Deluzio (@RepDeluzio) January 10, 2024
I thank Secretary Austin for his leadership and years of dedicated service to the American people and wish him a speedy recovery.
— Congressman Chris Deluzio (@RepDeluzio) January 10, 2024
On Thursday, Democrat Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts — a Marine Corps vet who served in Iraq — said on “The Hill” on NewsNation that, if he were president, Austin would be gone.
“It’s up to the president as to whether he fires Secretary Austin, but I tell you what, he needs to send a decisive message that this is never gonna happen again,” Moulton said. “I would fire him in about five minutes.”
It hardly matters, at this point, what the reasoning behind Austin’s secrecy was. Not only does it underscore the fact the Biden administration’s gerontocracy wants to keep pretending age and health don’t matter, but it also highlights the dangers that one of its highest-ranking members was willing to put the country in to keep up that facade.
And now, after going to such great lengths to maintain “privacy,” Austin faces the prospect of not only revealing his medical condition in public congressional testimony, but also explaining to the nation why he essentially went AWOL on America.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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