×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
March 20, 2017

Add making near-weekly trips to Florida to the U.S. president's list of essential duties. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, asked Monday if President Trump would consider cutting back on weekend trips to his Mar-a-Lago resort in order to save taxpayer money, claimed the trips are "part of being president." "Presidents always travel," Spicer said.

Spicer said it was a "vast reach" to suggest Trump's trips should be curbed in light of his budget blueprint released last week, which proposes steep cuts to federal programs like Meals on Wheels in order to offset a huge boost in defense and security spending. Thus far, taxpayers have paid an estimated $3.3 million for Trump's trips to what Spicer calls the "Winter White House." Quartz reported Meals on Wheels "could feed 5,967 seniors for a year for that amount."

When pressed about the golf outings Trump is reportedly taking on these trips down south, Spicer noted Trump's rounds of golf are about more than just golf. Spicer explained that Trump's golf games are different than former President Barack Obama's — which Trump repeatedly criticized — because of how Trump manages to "use the game of golf" to "help U.S. interests." Spicer noted Trump frequently golfs with foreign leaders — something Obama did too:

Asked if the press should be briefed on Trump's golfing if so many important meetings are allegedly happening on the greens, Spicer argued Trump is "entitled to a bit of privacy at some point." Becca Stanek

3:54 a.m. ET

Weirdly, late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel is now a big part of America's health-care debate. His critiques of the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill — after one of its sponsors, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), promised to oppose any bill that failed his "Jimmy Kimmel Test," which Graham-Cassidy appears to do — have hit a nerve perhaps because Kimmel is a goof and probably the least political of the late-night TV hosts. So on Wednesday, Theodore Kupfer at National Review published an article critical of Kimmel's audacity to weigh on health care, as if he had "deep and hidden reservoirs of knowledge on risk-adjustment programs, the Medicaid expansion, or per capita caps." The article is title, "Jimmy Kimmel, Policy-Wonk Wannabe," but the NRO social media editor posed it as a question:

It so happens that Politico had examined that question, and found that "in the war of words between Jimmy Kimmel and Sen. Bill Cassidy, the late-night host has the better grasp of health policy, health-care analysts say." So a lot of the responses to National Review's tweet were along those lines. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. If Kimmel isn't an expert, some asked, why are these guys being invited on cable news to talk health care?

Several people noted that the occupant of the Oval Office doesn't exactly have a long health-care résumé, either

Others, like Nancy Sinatra, asked why National Review thinks Kimmel doesn't have the right to weigh in:

And then Jason Helgerson, who runs New York State's Medicaid program, stepped in and dropped the mic:

Twitter: Ask, and ye shall receive. Peter Weber

3:17 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Thursday, the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD), a group representing the Medicaid directors from all 50 states, joined other medical and patient advocacy groups in opposing the latest Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, named after sponsors Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.). The bill would scrap ObamaCare's subsidies for consumers and Medicaid expansion and redistribute that money as state grants, in what the NAMD board of directors calls "the largest intergovernmental transfer of financial risk from the federal government to the states in our country's history."

The Medicaid directors said they don't want that risk, especially without being consulted first, and they called a Congressional Budget Office score — which Graham-Cassidy won't have before voting — "the bare minimum required for beginning consideration." Setting up entire new health-care programs in 50 states requires an enormous amount of work and resources, NAMD said, and "the vast majority of states will not be able to do so within the two-year timeframe envisioned here, especially considering the apparent lack of federal funding in the bill to support these critical activities."

Andy Slavitt, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2015 until January and an opponent of repealing ObamaCare, said all 50 Medicaid directors coming out against Graham-Cassidy was "very unusual," and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.), was similarly impressed:

The Senate plans to vote on the bill next week. You can read the NAMD's full statement here. Peter Weber

2:22 a.m. ET

Earlier this week, somebody leaked outtakes from Lawrence O'Donnell's MSNBC show, and they were not flattering. "Wow, he went from zero to dad-on-Day-3-of-road-trip like that," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, and that was before the hammering began somewhere at MSNBC. After showing censored excerpts of O'Donnell losing his cool, Colbert expressed some sympathy. "Folks, I gotta say, while the footage is not flattering, as a broadcaster, I sincerely feel for Lawrence O'Donnell on this clip," he said. "Hosting a television show is extremely stressful," especially with distractions. In fact, he added, "I had a meltdown of my own recently, so that's why, in solidarity with Lawrence O'Donnell and just to get ahead of the story before it breaks, I'm releasing my own tape." Watch the soft mockery below. Peter Weber

1:52 a.m. ET

Tom Price, President Trump's health and human services secretary, has taken at least 24 flights on private charter jets since May, Politico reported Thursday night, including a chartered flight to Oklahoma on Tuesday, after Politico found that Price had taken five chartered flights in just three days last week, including one to Philadelphia from Washington. The cost of the private flights Price is known to have chartered exceeds $300,000, Politico reports, and HHS spokeswoman Charmaine Yoest said Price's work trips are paid for "from the HHS budget," or taxpayer funds.

Yoest said Price has "taken commercial flights" for work since his confirmation, as was the rule under his predecessors, but that he uses "charter aircraft for official business in order to accommodate his demanding schedule," using as an example when Price, the HHS secretary, "was directing the recovery effort for Irma" and Hurricane Harvey. Politico said it "identified at least 17 charter flights that took place before the first storm — Hurricane Harvey — hit in late August," including to pre-arranged conferences and, in one case, a $7,100 chartered Learjet-60 from San Diego to Aspen, arriving 19 hours before his speech in the Colorado resort town.

"No one is quite sure what [Price] is doing," a senior White House official told Politico, noting that Price's frequent travels have little to do with Trump's priorities. As Brian Williams noted on MSNBC Thursday night, Price styles himself as a budget-cutter, both while in Congress and at HHS, and he's not the only Trump Cabinet member under scrutiny for questionable expenditures. You can watch below, and read the entire report at Politico. Peter Weber

12:50 a.m. ET
Str/AFP/Getty Images

Late Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded to President Trump's threat on Tuesday to "totally destroy North Korea" with a very rare personal statement saying Trump's "unprecedented rude nonsense" has "convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last." The statement, released by the official Korean Central News Agency, is full of colorful phrases — Kim calls Trump "a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire," for example — and ends with Kim's own threat to "surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire."

Hours after the statement was released, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters at the United Nations that Pyongyang is considering testing a hydrogen bomb. "It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific," Ri said, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. "We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un." Earlier on Thursday, Ri had mocked Trump as a "dog barking" and laughed off his "Rocket Man" nickname for Kim, and Trump had signed new financial penalties for North Korea.

If you are wondering what "dotard" means, you're not alone — "searches for 'dotard' are high as a kite," Merriam-Webster tweeted Thursday night, defining the word as someone in "a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness"; according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "dotard" now means "an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile," after earlier referring to an "imbecile." (You can read a longer history of the word at The Washington Post.) Peter Weber

September 21, 2017

Jimmy Kimmel wants you to know that he did not pick this fight. But as long as Republicans keep bringing him up in the fight over the GOP's Graham-Cassidy health-care bill, he's going to come back swinging. Thursday night was Round 3 on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and he started with President Trump getting involved on Twitter Wednesday night. Trump probably didn't know that he was wrong, that Graham-Cassidy doesn't protect people with pre-existing conditions, Kimmel said. But at this point, "he'd sign copies of the Quran at the Barnes and Noble in Falllujah if it meant he could get rid of ObamaCare."

"A lot of people have been saying I'm not qualified to talk about this, and that is true: I'm not qualified to talk about this," Kimmel said. "But I think those people forget, Bill Cassidy named this test after me." Sen. Cassidy (R-La.), who is a doctor, went on TV again Thursday morning to say Kimmel doesn't understand the bill, but Kimmel noted that most experts on health-care oppose Graham-Cassidy, too. He put up a list of all the medical groups, full of doctors, opposing the bill to make a point. "We haven't seen this many people come forward to speak out against a bill since Cosby," he cracked.

People have been telling Kimmel he should give Cassidy the benefit of the doubt, he said, "and you know what? I do give him the benefit of the doubt. I doubt all the benefits he claims are part of the new health-care bill." Kimmel took some swings at other Republicans dismissing his concerns and joked that Trump's qualifications to be president is that "he fired Meat Loaf on television," then tackled the main GOP argument in favor of the bill, "that it's better to put these decisions in the hands of the states." Even if Graham-Cassidy didn't leave state governments with $200 billion less to work with, he said, "have you seen some of our states? If Florida could make their own decisions, it would be legal to bring an alligator into a strip club." (Paul Waldman presents a more serious counter-argument at The Week). Watch below. Peter Weber

September 21, 2017
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Former New England Patriots tight end and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide in his prison cell while serving a life sentence, has been posthumously diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease CTE. Hernandez's lawyer, Jose Baez, announced in a news conference Thursday that Hernandez's was "the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron's age." Hernandez was 27 when he died in April.

Baez has filed a lawsuit against the Patriots and the NFL on behalf of Hernandez's daughter. CTE is linked to repeated head trauma, and numerous football players have recently been diagnosed with the disease.

Hernandez's family released his brain to Boston University's Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center for a CTE study. Becca Stanek

See More Speed Reads