Ultimately, every presidential visit to a disaster zone is largely a PR exercise, given that there’s not really any way the president can actually materially help rescue and support efforts. But Trump should at least try to make it look like he’s not there to boost his own image.
After Trump’s appearance in the hurricane-ravaged town of Corpus Christi, on the Gulf Coast of Texas – in which he praised the size of the crowd – he’s now copping heat for speaking to the flood victims while pushing his own pricey presidential merchandise.
For a third time, Trump is using Hurricane Harvey as product placement for a hat he sells for $40 pic.twitter.com/8Js7DEnbAs
— Gabriel Snyder (@gabrielsnyder) August 29, 2017
Trump’s former ethics chief Walter Schaub says that Trump’s decision to front the crowd while wearing a $40 campaign hat raises serious ethics concerns. Bloomberg analyst Anna Massoglia asked a question to that effect:
Any ethics issues raised by using official White House press releases on Hurricane Harvey to show off Trump's re-election campaign merch? pic.twitter.com/gW52txwCFa
— Anna Massoglia (@annalecta) August 30, 2017
To which Schaub replied, quite simply: yes.
Earlier on, Schaub had expressed concerns about the hat, saying the address would be “more convincing” if Trump wasn’t pushing his own merch at the time.
The presser would be more convincing if POTUS weren't wearing merch touted as the hat “worn by 45thPresident-Elect Donald J. Trump, himself” pic.twitter.com/kbv0KFvaS9
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) August 29, 2017
Look, maybe Trump just really bloody loves that USA hat. It’s a wonderful hat. But even if that were the case, it doesn’t necessarily absolve him from his federal ethics obligations.
Schaub left his post as Director of the Office of Government Ethics back in July, accusing Trump of reducing America to a “laughingstock”. Speaking to the New York Times, he elaborated:
It’s hard for the United States to pursue international anti-corruption and ethics initiatives when we’re not even keeping our own side of the street clean. It affects our credibility. I think we are pretty close to a laughing stock at this point.
At the end of the day, the biggest ethics issue is buying a cap for forty goddamn dollars. Please, people. Have a shred of self-respect.Image: Getty Images