When more and more attention began to center around now former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price’s use of private and military jets at the taxpayer’s expense (with an estimated cost of roughly $1 million for both), I figured it wasn’t a matter of if he’d be fired/resign, just when.
I knew his fate was sealed on Friday afternoon when Donald Trump was asked about Price’s future and he said he’d make a decision by that evening.
For those of you who might not know, there’s a thing known as the “Friday night news dump.” It’s the common practice of people, especially politicians, waiting until Friday evening to release information they’re hoping gets the least amount of attention as possible. The logic being that Friday, and especially during the weekend, most people tend to be more distracted with things other than the news. So the hope is by the time Monday rolls around, when people tend to pay more attention, whatever was “dumped” on Friday will be “old news.”
Trump famously did this on the Friday evening Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. He used the distraction the storm was creating to announce his pardon of racist former sheriff Joe Arpaio, that he was officially banning transgender Americans from being allowed to serve in the military, and that Sebastian Gorka had “resigned.”
So when Trump said he’d make a decision Friday afternoon/evening, I knew that meant Price was out.
That said, it’s a good move though, right? Price was clearly abusing his position as Secretary of Health and Human Services, billing taxpayers for expensive travel on private jets when there were much cheaper ways for him to travel.
The thing is, Donald Trump doesn’t do anything because it’s the right thing to do. Every decision Trump makes is based on one thing and one thing alone: whatever is in his best interests.
Just take a look at Trump’s remarks about Price’s “resignation.”
“I don’t like the optics,” Trump said, adding: “We’re renegotiating NAFTA, we renegotiating so many things and making much better deals. You’ll be seeing other things come up. So I don’t like to see somebody that perhaps there’s the perception that it wasn’t right.”
“I was disappointed because I didn’t like it, cosmetically or otherwise,” he added.
Nothing in that statement indicates Trump got rid of Price because he was upset over the fact that he was screwing over the taxpayers.
For Trump, this was about the optics.
If you notice what he said, Trump didn’t even outright condemn Price abusing his power by billing the taxpayers for these expensive private flights. Oh, no. In Trump’s mind, it was about the perception that it wasn’t right. For Trump to admit that what Price did was wrong would require Trump to admit some sort of a weakness, and we know “The Donald” never does that.
As CNN’s Chris Cillizza pointed out, Trump didn’t like the fact that Price made him look bad.
This was a gross abuse of taxpayer dollars by someone other than Trump. Sure, Donald J. Trump can get away with being on pace to cost taxpayers more in one year for personal travel expenses than they spent on Barack Obama during his eight years in office — because he’s Donald J. Trump. In the minds of his supporters, no matter what he says or does — literally, no matter what — there’s always an excuse for it.
However, the same can’t be said for a relative no-name like Tom Price. Even many within the conservative media couldn’t defend a Secretary of Health and Human Services billing taxpayers for nearly $1 million in travel in just a few months.
Not only did Price make Trump look bad by bringing about unwanted negative attention, but he also made the “president” look incompetent (well, more so than normal). After all, this was all happening on his watch, yet he seemed absolutely oblivious to it (or at least he claims he was) until just recently.
The last thing Trump needs are more negative headlines about an administration that’s mired in a new scandal or controversy on an almost daily basis. Especially from someone in Price’s position, someone Trump clearly didn’t see as an essential member of his “inner circle.”
So even facing a situation where Donald Trump could have actually done the right thing and easily said something along the lines of, “What Tom Price did was inexcusable and I won’t stand for such a gross abuse of power and taxpayer money, which is why I accepted his resignation this afternoon,” like a true leader would have — he couldn’t even manage to do that.
Instead, Trump essentially dismissed the significance of the $1 million Tom Price scammed from the taxpayers to let everyone know that the real reason he’s no longer going to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services is because the “optics” and “perception” of his actions made him look bad.
And we all know the one thing you don’t do is make Donald J. Trump look bad.