President Donald Trump’s interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson was noteworthy for what Trump did not say about and the passion he did not have for, the Republican healthcare bill — whatever it is.
If Reagan was the Great Communicator, Trump could end up being remembered as the Great Negotiator — and it will take that to keep this Republican healthcare bill alive so that it can even get to the operating room of negotiation. Trump, his surrogates, acolytes and sympathetic news media — wherever they may be — have pointedly avoided calling this Frankenstein monster Trumpcare because he clearly and desperately does not want to own it by name.
When Carlson brought the issue up in Wednesday night’s interview, the president could barely bring himself to discuss the matter, talking about how it was something that was up for negotiation and that he would find some way to salvage. He wanted to talk about taxes, about wiretaps, about the “fake media,” about the weather — but not healthcare.
His heart is not in this and I’m not even sure if his contributions are either.
It was not even clear that he is aware of what is in the legislation because his references to the legislation are not just defined by their brevity but by a lack of detail that indicates he is neither certain of nor committed to this initiative.
And I’m not sure who would be. This has the fingerprints of Paul Ryan and the establishment Republicans all over it; the sort of politics designed to garner a bipartisan smile but creating an unhappy consensus is the sort that doesn’t work and didn’t function for eight years under Obama. What makes anyone think it is going to succeed now?
It is almost comical to hear the administration voices describe the patchwork design or ideological confusion of this healthcare package that has a little bit of the federal government, a lot of the states, some free enterprise, a whole lot of Obamacare left over and very little that you can take to the bank — or the hospital.
I’ve had people repeatedly ask me just what in hell it’s all about, and the best I can say is that it’s about repealing and replacing Obamacare because that was in the talking points.
In reality, this is a compromise bill that will end up satisfying no one — and politically that’s the worst position to be in. Legislation has to appeal to some base, some faction of the party, some group of Congressman who meet at the water cooler each day but this is a bill without a cheering section.
You know what this is really about — fear of the subclass that will lose a government entitlement. The real problem with the growth of government is not just the expanding power of the state and the accreting spending that this entails, it is the rapidity with which a program becomes a vested interest — a human right — for the public. Obamacare has become that and the Republicans are loathe to suggest that the private sector should be sorting out healthcare just like it manages the production of steel.
This is all leading to a terrible disconnect on Capitol Hill. Trump won the primaries and the presidential election because Republicans and a lot of Democrats realized that Washington was paralyzed by the inactivity of not wanting to offend. A GOP majority in the House and then the Senate merely watched while Obama continued to amass huge deficits and govern by executive order. Now we have a Republican-controlled Congress that seems to move by a weird sort inertia, as if it cannot get used to the idea that there is a new president in the White House and must continue to propose hybrid solutions that neither satisfy nor fool anyone.
Healthcare may have become the hobgoblin of American politics, and what is before Congress right now is not going to tame this mischievous spirit.
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