President Trump recently did an interview on Fox News in which he discussed the future of Obamacare. Bill O’Reilly seemed confident that Trump was going to stick firm to his campaign position that he was going after Obamacare from day one. Then he asked for details about the timeline. It had to be a shock to the host and the millions of viewers for the Super Bowl that would follow the interview, when Trump said that he was moving the timeline of even introducing an alternative package to 2018.
The implications of this decision are numerous and significant. They demonstrate either a desire to do nothing about Obamacare or it is a total “rookie” move for someone who had not had any elected office experience before running for the highest job in the land. I have long felt that pure “on the job experience” is pretty dangerous when the position is President of the United States. The first argument requires a certain degree of conspiracy thinking in order to believe. However, it has been noted by many that Trump long supported socialized medicine before actually opposing it. Even in his opposition he has supported elements of Obamacare — such as guaranteed coverage regardless of health condition and the extension of the age of dependence — that are both the most popular and the most expensive provisions to maintain. His new approach finds Obamacare being addressed, for the first time, in the middle of an election cycle. It has the potential of wiping out much of his support in Congress.
Still, I hate conspiracy theories, even though many have certainly become easier to believe over time. I prefer to deal with things that have plenty of evidence of support. His lack of experience is evident, and even his supporters in the GOP have been shocked by his sophomoric behavior and rhetoric:
- His statement of “moral equivalency” in discussing the similarities between Putin and US leaders.
- His bizarre implementation of his “extreme vetting” program that seemed designed to foster sympathy for those going through it, than for those who were hoping to see a more secure and safe country.
- The strange promotion of “alternative facts” by the Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, which he had done nothing to distance himself from. Obviously, these type of rhetorical tools have been used by political types of all persuasions throughout history, but no one to my knowledge has ever overtly named the process as if it were a positive. It is very reminiscent of George Orwell’s book, “1984” and the expression of “newspeak,” in which the world was one in where “war is peace” and “freedom is slavery.” It is impossible to imagine how the overt deployment of such a rhetorical tactic will help this administration in the credibility department.
Trump’s decision to essentially “punt” Obamacare to 2018 is as shocking or even worse than the above examples in the poor political decision making department. It has the potential of becoming a perfect storm and shows the President is tone deaf when it comes to the GOP’s successes in 2010, 2014, and in 2016. Today, he seems to believe that his anti-Obamacare rhetoric was a mere part of his larger strategy. However, when he was running, virtually every speech included his intention to wage war on Obama’s healthcare plan from day one. With his intention to wait until 2018, many of his core constituency will see him as a “complete sell out.” Members of Congress in both Houses up for reelection will have to explain why it took so long. People who have grown fond of the program will be more committed and many of those who currently hate it will likely get use to it by that time. He will, essentially, have thrown GOP members “under the bus” as they work to get reelected and spend their time explaining why it took so long to get something introduced, let alone passed.
In the end, Trump either has no problem with Obama’s approach to healthcare or he is one of the most politically naive people to hold the highest office in the land. Either way, I see a GOP Congress facing an existential crisis in 2018.
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