Sunday, October 1, 2017

Does Secretary Tom Price Deserve Forgiveness?

What is the explanation for Tom Price, a physician and current Secretary of Health and Human Services, taking private charter flights costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars?  Keep in mind that when Price was a conservative congressman from Georgia, he would have railed against such fiscal profligacy.  Is it hubris?  Entitlement?  Or, do folks who ascend to positions of power simply rationalize that such excesses are absolute necessities for getting the job done?

By the time this piece is posted, Dr. Price, an orthopedic surgeon, may have been surgically excised from the government without anesthesia. 

While his behavior is not quite Watergate, it was wrong.  And, if it was not wrong, it demonstrated impaired judgment.  And, if was not simply a repeated exercise of misjudgments, then it exhibited bad optics.  And, if it somehow passed the optics test, it was just dumb. 

Would Price have been able to explain these expensive charter flights to average folks, half of whom elected the president to drain the swamp?

I watched Price’s reaction to all of this in several interviews.  Yes, he agreed to pay ‘his share’ of the flight costs, which represented a small fraction of the total costs incurred.  He stated that his department would desist from private charter flights in the future.  He admitted that the ‘optics were bad’ and that previous cabinet secretaries have engaged in similar behavior without suffering repercussions.  He didn’t appear to me to be a man consumed with guilt. 

Sounding the shofar, a call to repentence.  

Personally, I don’t think that Price thinks that he did anything improper.  He never clearly states that he was wrong.  Admitting that he had an ‘optics issue’ is not the same as a confession.   Pointing out that prior government officials committed similar acts with impunity doesn’t sound like a man who knows he has done wrong. 

If he did feel that his flights were proper, then why would he pay back the government anything or stop future charters?    He could have resigned simply because the president was angry and displeased, without offering a pseudo-confession to a transgression he did not believe he had committed. 

Yesterday at sundown, ended the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.  This culminates a 10 day period of reflection and penitence.   We are instructed to beseech forgiveness from the people in our lives before petitioning the Almighty for absolution.  We cannot receive atonement unless we have first admitted our errors, repented for them and strive not to repeat them.  While I am not a rabbi, I doubt that the Almighty would grant us a pardon if we looked skyward and cried out:  “My Lord, forgive me for demonstrating bad optics!”

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