Donald Trump has demonstrated a special skill for diverting our attention from pesky news that threatens his agenda. Even his missile attack on Syria in April was seen by some as an attempt to distract us from a first rush of allegations about contacts between his campaign and Russia. ‘The distractor in chief has struck again,’ blared one headline in the Washington Post.
As he enters month nine of his presidency, Trump is discovering that his powers of distraction only take him so far. And can even get him into serious trouble. (We shall get to Puerto Rico in a moment.) Worse is the inevitable reality that other matters have an annoying habit of popping up to distract him. Two cases in point right now: members of his cabinet indulging in unnecessary private-jet travel at mighty cost to the taxpayer and West Wing advisors using private email accounts for government business.
It’s tricky to gauge which of these two oopsies is worse. Both scream everything from hypocrisy – what was that about locking up Hillary Clinton? – to what the hell (or something worse).
Tom Price resigned late on Friday as Health and Human Services Secretary after racking up a reported $1m or so for taking either military or private charter flights for his assorted trips when commercial flights – or in one case a train – would have done. We’d been hearing for a couple of days that the president was already livid with him. We aren’t privy, though, to conversations he may have had with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, over the uproar that has erupted over his allegedly using a private email account for months and then failing to divulge the fact to a committee on Capitol Hill investigating Russia and its election meddling.
Price’s Gulfstream galavantings were indeed egregious, much of it unveiled in technicolour detail last week by Politico. He took a $25,000 charter flight from Washington to Philadelphia when he could have ridden the rails for $72 return….