After the New York Times reported last Tuesday that President Trump wasn’t even aware that the GOP health-care bill cuts taxes on the wealthy, the president hit back the next morning on Twitter:
Another president might have responded by holding more public events to promote the Republican health plan, or at least having his staff leak stories about his hard work on the issue behind the scenes. Instead, Trump tweeted a misleading graph about Medicaid, and revived the idea of repealing Obamacare and coming up with a replacement plan later, which he’d rejected back in January. Then it appears he forgot he was supposed to be proving the media wrong about health care, and shifted his focus to making grotesque accusations about Morning Joe’s anchors and fantasizing about literally beating up CNN.
While President Trump promised to repeal Obamacare on Day One, he’s been a terrible advocate for the GOP health plan. He frequently appears disinterested in the issue, but will occasionally make an impossible promise (“much less expensive and much better” heath care for all) or suddenly reverse his position (like when he proclaimed the bill that passed in the House was “mean, mean, mean”).
As the Washington Post notes, President Obama mounted a tremendous campaign to sell the Affordable Care Act — including a joint address to Congress, multiple town-hall meetings, and a televised Q&A at the annual GOP retreat. While we know Trump thinks Obamacare is a “disaster,” he’s barely even discussed the positive attributes of the Republican health plan. With more salesmanship from Trump it might be polling above 12 percent.
Trump did put pressure on wavering House members to pass the American Health Care Act in May, and Sunday on Fox News Marc Short, the White House legislative affairs director, suggested that over the weekend the president was “continuing to make calls to members to try to get the Senate package across the finish line.” He said Republicans are “getting close” to a deal, though some GOP lawmakers suggested that’s not the case.
On Meet the Press, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price insisted that the president is fully engaged on the issue, holding “multiple meetings within the White House itself, with physicians, with small business groups, with other folks who have been harmed by Obamacare, with patients, individual stakeholders from across this land who tell him and have told us repeatedly that the current system is collapsing.”
Price also rejected the idea that the president is too focused on his feud with the media, saying, “The fact of the matter is that he can do more than one thing at a time.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer told the Post that working to build public support for his signature issue simply isn’t Trump’s style:
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that there’s no reason Trump should follow models used by Obama or other past presidents to build public support.
“You use the model that works for you,” Spicer said, noting that Trump has advanced a health-care bill further in the process at this point in his term than Obama. The ACA did not pass until the second year of Obama’s first term.
“We’ve been more efficient,” Spicer said.
That’s like arguing that a wrecking ball operator is more talented than the architect who spent months designing the building, but Spicer does have a point. Even if President Trump were capable of arguing the merits of the bill in an hour-long debate with Democrats, that wouldn’t help it succeed. As Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s secret drafting process confirms, he knows that the key to getting the health bill through the Senate is avoiding bad press and massive protests in swing districts — especially while members are home for the Fourth of July recess.
“I’m sitting there with a Rubik’s Cube, trying to figure out how to twist the dials to get to 50 [votes] to replace this with something better than” Obamacare, McConnell said during a fundraiser in Kentucky on Friday. “We’re going to continue to wrestle with this and try to get it done.”
“It’s not easy making America great again, is it?” McConnell added.