Following his humiliating failure with TrumpCare, his would-be replacement for ObamaCare, Trump has tried to save face by blaming the one group of Republicans in Washington that retains a semblance of principle: the Freedom Caucus. What this implies should put us all on alert.
Whom you are willing to attack, and whom you do, are always meaningful. As if foisting a joke of a bill like the AHCA—nothing less than ObamaCare-Lite, leaving most of the key elements in place—were not embarrassing enough for conservatives, blaming the only remaining representatives of anything like a Free Market simply highlights once again that Trump is the socialized pragmatist we always knew he was.
(For the record, Alan Keyes was right to say this was hardly a “betrayal” as some conservatives have cried. “Throughout his presidential campaign, it was clear that Donald Trump never abandoned his commitment to socialist goals and principles for health care in the United States. He insisted on universal coverage, subsidized as needed by federal government largesse. He told conservatives they would just have to get used to it. . . . President Trump isn’t reverting to socialism, because candidate Trump never professed to support anything else.”)
Reason.com provides the most withering criticism of this fiasco, noting especially that the Braggart-in-Chief has spent a lifetime vaunting himself as the Great Deal-Maker, yet abjectly failed to close the deal here. This came after the highest self-aggrandizement on this very issue:
We will immediately repeal and replace ObamaCare – and nobody can do that like me. We will save $'s and have much better healthcare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2016
Again, the fall from such a great, self-appointed precipice came for very simple reasons, which makes it all the more embarrassing:
The bill Trump backed made no attempt to balance either the policy or political interests of the legislators, influence groups, or stakeholders involved. Trump spent the week negotiating changes to the bill, but because he neither cared nor understood what was in it, and what lawmakers wanted from the bill, he couldn’t act as an effective negotiator. . . .
Trump, of course, shares some blame with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Ryan led the drafting of the bill, and the legislative process. The bill he put together didn’t really make sense, in large part because it was never really a health policy bill. The AHCA was a setup for tax reform designed to make it easier to permanently cut taxes in a future piece of legislation.
But it was Trump who managed the negotiations. It was Trump who was expected to seal the deal. And it was Trump who ultimately couldn’t make it work.
Health policy is hard because all of the policy pieces are interconnected. The various policy pieces, meanwhile, are just as interconnected with the politics, which is just as complex. You can’t separate any of it, and adjusting any one part of the system inevitably means a cascade of additional adjustments will be necessary further down the line. It’s a system of trade-offs, and Trump didn’t know or care what those trade-offs were.
This is the danger of a president who is so disinterested in policy particulars, especially when, like Trump, he expects to maintain a central role in the process. Trump’s character—his personal style and his habits of mind—prevent him from effectively negotiating complex legislation. . . . It’s a problem that is likely to continue to haunt conservative policy goals for as long as Trump is president.
Trying to get up from his fall, while peeling the mud from his face, Trump tries hard to deflect and shift the blame. First, he blames Democrats, which is utterly stupid. Who expected a single Democrat to get behind this? Why should they? Their job from day one was simple: decry the millions of poor that this bill would kick out on the streets with no health insurance, then sit back and watch the Republican fire drill.
The ridiculousness of this attempt at blame was obvious enough even for Trump to see, so he pivoted: now it’s the fault of the Freedom Caucus, the Club for Growth, and the Heritage Foundation.
But herein lies another rub. When your position ends with decrying conservatives more consistently free-market and more principled than you, the joke might be on you. You just might be seen for attacking liberty more than anything. With such finger-pointing, Trump effectively climbs the same height from which he just fell, grabs himself by the collar, and flings himself off again.
More mud. More splat.
As Reason noted, this will be a danger going forward for a long time—every time Trump gets involved in policy negotiation. And the additional danger is even greater: if the Trump-Priebus-Ryan show repeats itself every time this happens, we will see a sustained attack on Liberty.
Of course, all the “Freedom Caucus” guys were doing was . . . their job. Granted, it’s difficult to imagine that any politician elected on a campaign of principle, free markets, and things like repealing ObamaCare would, this day and age, actually stand for those things once in Washington. That’s not how the game is played, we all know. So, it’s a real shocker when a whole group of them does it. It takes us average Americans—conditioned by so much previous experience—a moment to step back and realize that the Freedom Caucus guys are doing exactly what conservative Representatives should be doing. It’s the Trump-Ryan show that needs to change; not these guys.
The moment we do wake up to the fact, we should also realize that such guys strongly need our support and encouragement. And then, we should give it to them.