Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck, one of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies, announced this morning that he’s resigning as a member of Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council. Apparently, the president’s reaction to white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville was simply too much.
“As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” Frazier explained.
With remarkable efficiency, Trump returned fire with an angry tweet.
“Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”
It’s hard not to appreciate the irony: Merck’s CEO resigned because Trump wouldn’t denounce white supremacists. The president responded, not by condemning dangerous radicals, but by blasting … Merck’s CEO.
Also note the speed with which Trump can move when he wants to. Facing criticism that he was slow to speak out on Saturday’s deadly violence – the president published an underwhelming tweet hours after the fact, and still hasn’t condemned the white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville – Trump went after Ken Frazier by name less than an hour after the Merck chief’s statement.
If he’d invested this much energy in condemning white supremacists on Saturday, Trump wouldn’t be in this mess.
It’s a reminder, of course, that nothing motivates this president like a sense of grievance in response to a personal slight. Trump isn’t especially concerned by criticisms of the United States, but affronts to him personally are nearly always met with swift and angry rebukes.
Those who praise Trump, meanwhile, can feel confident that they will remain in the president’s good graces – indefinitely and unconditionally.
As for the White House’s American Manufacturing Council, the largely honorary panel began with 28 members. Tesla’s Elon Musk resigned in June after Trump abandoned the Paris climate accords, and Merck’s Kenneth Frazier stepped down this morning. It’s a safe bet that the remaining 26 members will face quite a bit of pressure now to step down as well.
Postscript: It’s probably not the most important angle to this story, but let’s not forget that Trump hasn’t shown the slightest interest in lowering the cost of prescription medication, despite some campaign rhetoric on the subject. If the president were really concerned about lowering “RIP-OFF DRUG PRICES,” he could move forward on a variety of possible policy measures, but to date, Trump hasn’t bothered. On the contrary, he’s done the opposite.