Donald Trump has been on a rampage, looking everywhere for someone to blame for the failure of his healthcare bill, pointing the finger at everyone from conservatives to Democrats, and even Paul Ryan. However, he of course is not shouldering any of the responsibility himself.
- The Freedom Caucus and moderate Republicans killed the bill before it even started.
- Trump is rushing to blame everyone but himself for this embarrassing defeat.
- Relations between Ryan and Trump now under a microscope.
- GOP infighting will continue for years.
Trump is no stranger to the blame game. When he lost the popular vote, he blamed voter fraud. When the crowds for his inauguration were smaller than he wanted, he blamed the “fake news” for publishing false reports and misleading images. Every time the Russia story takes a bad turn for him, he blames leakers, Democrats and even Obama.
While all presidents lie, Trump is unabashed with his use of false statements, unapologetically so, blurring the lines between fact and fiction constantly. Because Americans tend to now get their news from sources that confirm their bias rather than challenge it, Trump’s distaste of the truth acts as a rallying cry for his supporters, oblivious to reality.
On Twitter, the president’s favourite medium for thinly-veiled messages, he began to taunt the Freedom Caucus – a group of particularly right-wing conservatives who opposed the bill because it did not repeal Obamacare enough. Their lack of support caused the American Health Care Act (ACHA) to be pulled less than an hour before the vote in the House was scheduled to take place.
Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2017
Referring to the political advocacy group, Club for Growth and the Heritage foundation thinktank, he is taking aim at the groups that have influence on the members of the Freedom Caucus.
This provocative taunt aligns these right-wing groups with liberal Democrats on the issue of Planned Parenthood, a federally funded provider of women’s healthcare services that is a lightning rod for anti-abortion groups.
Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary said that there is no plan B, and that Republicans would have to shoulder the responsibility amongst their constituents for the survival of Obamacare. This scare tactic did not work.
Furthermore, the attack on Ryan took place on twitter in a more roundabout way, as the president told his followers to watch a Fox News show at 9pm, where “Judge Jeanine”, a longtime friend of Donald Trump, began her show by opening fire on the speaker by saying, “Paul Ryan needs to step down as speaker of the House … He failed to deliver the votes.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 25, 2017
This attack on Ryan comes despite assertions from the White House and the House speaker’s team that unity still exists.
The Freedom Caucus
The leader of the Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, said that healthcare reform is not dead, despite the failure of the ACHA. “I still believe that there is a good chance, if moderates and conservatives can come together, that we repeal and replace Obamacare, bring premiums down, cover more people,” he said.
Mick Mulvaney, formerly a member of the Freedom Caucus and now Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, has come out in defence of any strained relations saying, “Never once have I seen him blame Paul Ryan,” Mulvaney said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “The people who are to blame are the people who would not vote yes.”
“We haven’t been able to change Washington in the first 65 days,” Mulvaney said. “I know the Freedom Caucus. I helped found it. I never thought it would come to this.”
Newt Gingrich, who was a prominent supporter of Trump in the 2016 election, and former Republican speaker, has been critical of Trump’s approach. “Don’t set up an artificial deadline to fail,” he said referring to Trump and Ryan’s failed promise to repeal Obamacare on its seventh anniversary.
“Paul Ryan is a brilliant policy guy,” Gingrich said. But he added: “The congressional leadership still wants to behave as if they are in a pre-Trump world, and Trump trusted them. They were saying to him: ‘We have the votes.’”
Democrats weigh in
Bernie Sanders, who ran on universal healthcare for the Democratic presidential nomination called it a “disastrous piece of legislation”.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said that Democrats would work with Republicans if they stopped simply trying to repeal it, but rather improve it.
“We never said it was perfect,” Schumer said, adding: “The American people hated ‘Trumpcare’. The more they learned about it, the more they didn’t like it. And I want to salute all the ordinary people out there who called and wrote and picketed.”
Trump himself has said that Obamacare is set to “explode” by itself, and seems content to let it do so and then blame the Democrats. If he does tow this line, it is not only far from presidential, but also petulant.
Four years of infighting ahead
Trump has no idea about the political landscape of his own party. The Gingrich coalition of right and crazy-alt-right that has been growing since 1994 has now erupted like a festering boil. The GOP could be two separate parties; it best resembles a European or Israeli-style accord between centre-right and far-right in order to solidify a majority voting block. But beyond expediency, there is no philosophical accord.
Enter Trump, a former Democrat who never really understood Washington political dynamics, and whom the GOP establishment leaders viewed as a convenient tool to get legislation through that would dismantle everything back to the New Deal. They forgot that the President actually has to lead, and Trump doesn’t know how to do this with the unruly factions in the GOP.
So we are in for four years of infighting in the majority party. If the dysfunction of the Obama years was frustrating with obstructionist Republicans always trying to block legislation, how much worse is it going to be with three factions all trying to stymie the other two, and with a President who has no idea how to proceed with any of them.
Priebus is no leader. Wonkish Ryan is utterly incapable of inspiring anyone. McConnell is utterly sidelined. Trump is not in control, and Pence is running around like a demented cheerleader trying to sell dysfunction as progress as if he were still on the campaign trail.