"Brooks and Klein on Tom Price's plane scandal, Trump taking aim at the NFL" PBS NewsHour 9/29/2017
SUMMARY: New York Times columnist David Brooks and Ezra Klein of Vox join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's news, including the resignation of Tom Price as HHS secretary over expensive chartered flights, the anti-establishment upset in the Alabama Senate runoff, and President Trump's divisive rhetoric over the NFL protests.
JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour): And now to the analysis of Brooks and Klein. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Ezra Klein of Vox.com. Mark Shields is off this week.
Gentlemen, it's good to have you both.
We — our lead story tonight, David, is the resignation of the secretary of health and human services, Tom Price. We were going to talk about the flights several Trump Cabinet officials seem to have been taking. But now he's gone, the first Cabinet member to step down. Big deal.
DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Yes, I don't think he should have to go.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You don't?
DAVID BROOKS: If Donald Trump thought he was a good Secretary of Defense — of Health and Human Services, and he knew his policies, which he did — he knew the policies — and he was generally supportive, which, as far as I could see, he was, then this scandal doesn't merit a firing/resignation.
He made Trump look bad. And Trump's only loyalty is to himself. So, I get that. He had to go.
But, personally, I think the government should have a fleet of planes to take around Cabinet secretaries. It would just be more efficient. Any company of any size has this sort of thing. And so this scandal makes Trump look bad, but it certainly doesn't merit firing, I would say.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Didn't have to be fired?
EZRA KLEIN, Vox: No, I think he probably did have to be fired. But I have different views on what's a decent Health and Services Secretary than Donald Trump.
I think there are two things here that are interesting. One is, Donald Trump has not been running an administration of very high ethical standards.
When Tom Price was nominated, there was quite a lot of ethical smoke around him. There were allegations of insider trading. These were things the Senate decided not to dig into. There were things that he misstated. They didn't hold a secondary hearing to look into them.
Donald Trump himself has had a lot of conflict of interests and quasi-dealing things that he's been trying to get around and certainly not address in any serious way. Nobody knows the tax returns.
But the other thing that I actually think is a bigger scandal here — it's not at all why Tom Price was forced to step down — but he's been fundamentally sabotaging Obamacare, which is the law of the land. They're just making it worse in an effort to weaken it.
It's going to make a lot of people's lives a lot worse, and feels to me like it should be a bigger scandal than whatever planes he did or didn't take.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David, in fact, we are told the President was unhappy with Tom Price because he didn't get Obamacare repealed.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I understand that, but that really wasn't Tom Price's fault.
If Donald Trump wants to fire somebody for not getting Obamacare repealed, he should fire himself. 🤔
DAVID BROOKS: He was the one primarily who messed up the investigation, who had no clear agenda, who was ignorant when he entered into the negotiations with the Congress, messed everything up even worse.
And so, if that's the standard, then there is a lot of people to be fired.
Donald Trump has a problem with loyalty and a problem with his administration. How many people has he gone through already?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Exactly.
DAVID BROOKS: We're only a country of 320 million people. He's going to run through all of us.
DAVID BROOKS: He's going to start hiring labor from Mexico.
So there has to be — if you're running a successful administration, then you're loyal to people who are basically good who make a mistake. And that seems to be essential for any organization. And it should be essential if this were a normal administration, rather than a fiefdom, where everybody simply tries to give Donald Trump a good headline every day.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And if he holds to this standard, Ezra, these other four Cabinet secretaries could be in trouble. But it's hard to believe that four more would go.
EZRA KLEIN: Is it that hard to believe?
JUDY WOODRUFF: I don't know. I don't know.
EZRA KLEIN: This has been a very unusual administration so far.
I do think that there is a very unclear level of conduct in the Trump Administration. That's one reason you're seeing this among so many different secretaries. Again, Trump himself has been bending ethics rules left and right.
But the problem is, Donald Trump is loyal to himself. He's not loyal to them. The rules are different for them in ways that they don't understand. It's creating a lot — a real lack of clarity.
This is something, though, that I think Senate Republicans deserve a fair amount of blame for. They should have been much harder in terms of the confirmation hearings in insisting on a fairly high level of ethics and a fairly high level of competence in the folks they let through.
You do that and you have those standards to protect yourself, so these things don't happen down the road and make you look bad and imperil your agenda.
There is a lot that they didn't do at the front end that is going to come back to bite them in these coming months.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to turn to the NFL story.
The President’s really gone to war with the National Football League, David.
I’m just learning from our producer that the White House has announced that the White House chief of staff is going to have to approve, going forward, all charter travel on the part of senior Cabinet official — I guess any Cabinet official or Cabinet at any level.
But what about — David, what about this story that has — confrontation that’s just blown up before our eyes over the last week-and-a-half, between the president openly criticizing professional football players and the league standing up for them?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, I don’t approve of what Colin Kaepernick did. I don’t think you kneel before the national anthem.
I think, if you are going to protest, you protest in a way that doesn’t undermine our common nationality. And so I didn’t think — he did what he did.
But Donald Trump reacted in his typical way, which was to find a wound in the American body politic, in this case, a wound about race, and then to stick a red-hot poker in it and to rip it open. And to me, that is what is most troubling about what we’re seeing over the last year, maybe two years, is that the fabric of society is being destroyed by someone who’s really good at finding out where we’re weakest, and exploiting those differences in order to launch really a cultural agenda.
And so the fragmentation we saw last Sunday, and we will probably see again, is something that he is exacerbating. And somehow we have to find a way to reverse that cycle.