Tom Price resigned as Secretary of Health and Human Services on Friday. But let’s not get the story twisted.
Price did not resign because, under his leadership, his Department sought to decimate Obamacare, strip transgender people of basic protections in the healthcare system, and make access to contraception and abortion even harder for women.
His ethically dubious history in Congress — trading healthcare stocks while serving on a committee that oversaw that industry — was also not a concern-worthy issue under the ethical compass of the current administration.
No, none of these were enough to force Price out of office (or keep him from getting nominated in the first place).
Price resigned because of the expensive, privately-chartered flights he made extensive use of while in office. In under a year, he spent over $1 million on privately chartered flights. Actually, to be more precise, it was the bad press he and his office received when this came to light that forced him to resign.
That second point is an important one. The Trump family has already maxed out the Secret Service’s budget this year, with no signs of slowing down. Expensive and frequent travel really isn’t an issue for the Trump administration — at least not by the example Trump is setting as the leader. Price got into trouble because of the level of sustained bad press his extensive travel, on privately-chartered flights, brought to the administration.
Bad press — and not bad decisions — have been the death knell for other top advisors and leaders in the Trump administration. And while getting bad folks out of office is still a win, it’s highly concerning that these actions only come when Trump’s ego and reputation are at stake.
Price worked to strip health insurance from millions of Americans, work which has left the Affordable Care Act in turmoil. Price aggressively worked to end very basic healthcare protections for transgender people, without even a backwards glance. Price gladly welcomed opportunities to further restrict access to abortion and birth control for every single woman in America.
But Price made the administration look bad so he was forced to resign. In an administration as corrupt and morally devoid as this one, perhaps it is comforting to know even Trump has an achilles heel.