Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He seemed more than a little confused during ad-libbed remarks over his stalled health care bill.

After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pulled that chamber's version of an ACA repeal bill, Trump had wavering GOP senators bussed to the White House for a meeting. Before sarcastically expelling the press, Trump said that a deal on a repeal bill was "very close," and then added: "This will be great if we get it done. And if we don't get it done, it's just going to be something that we're not going to like, and that's OK, and I understand that very well."

The curious indifference in that statement cuts two ways. It's in keeping with Trump's stated policy of deliberately crippling the existing health insurance infrastructure to create political pressure for his replacement. But it also goes to frustrations that Congressional Republicans are now experiencing for the second time on health care alone. Off-the-record Republicans are grumbling, as they did in March, that Trump is unwilling and unable to grasp how legislative politics works--citing in particular Trump's okaying an ill-advised intra-party attack on Nevada's vulnerable Dean Heller. 

Worse, from a Republican standpoint, Trump seems completely unable to get a handle on the complexity of the matter. Today's remarks were not the first sign of confusion: several times in recent weeks, he has essentially attacked himself, saying that Congress's Trumpcare bills lack "heart" and are "mean." Critics have pointed out that the bills Trump is intermittently championing are radically different from the "insurance for everybody" plan he has described at rallies--but given his disengagement from the details, it's hard to believe Trump actually knows this.

Why should I care?

  • A president who doesn't know whether or why he supports his own centerpiece domestic policy is dangerously disengaged.
  • A president five months into his term should already have figured out that he cannot simply order Congress to do what he wants.