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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Alas, poor Donald.

Unlike his personal hero Vladimir Putin, President Trump can’t have his political opponents thrown into prison, shot dead in the street, or flung off fourth floor balconies. In Moscow, Russian soldiers could have herded those women in stupid pink hats into stockades like cows. If a few opinionated heifers got roughed up, well, they asked for it, didn’t they?

Instead, Trump was reduced to making excuses for the failure of his farcical Obamacare “reform” by launching impotent attacks against just about everybody in Washington. Because the great man himself couldn’t possibly have bungled his oft-repeated vow to repeal and replace his predecessor’s signal political achievement. Not him.

Because nothing is Donald J. Trump’s fault — ever.

First it was Democrats — specifically excluded from having any input whatsoever into the GOP bill — whom the president tried to blame. His own party refuses even to vote on his brilliant plan and it’s the Democrats’ fault?

Next, he urged his Twitter followers to watch Justice with Judge Jeanine,  a Fox News program hosted by an abrasive New Yorker and longtime Trump pal. Jeanine Pirro obligingly opened her program by urging House Speaker Paul Ryan to resign. For all his “swagger and experience,” she argued, it was all Ryan’s fault that caused “our president in his first 100 days to come out of the box like that.”

That is, to use one of Trump’s favorite insults, as a big loser.

By Sunday morning, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus went on TV claiming it was all a big misunderstanding. Why, the president had no clue what Judge Jeanine would say. Trump, he said “thinks that Paul Ryan is a great Speaker of the House.”

Yeah, right. Sure he does. To Ryan’s face, anyway.  

On NBC’s Meet the Press, Republican Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Pennsylvanian of the kind often derided as a RINO (Republican in Name Only) by hardliners, said that Trump had privately accused him of “destroying the Republican Party.”

The “Republican Party,” in this formulation, signifying Trump’s massive ego.

What the big dope appears incapable of understanding is that for Northeastern Republicans in competitive districts, voting for the Trump/Ryan bill would amount to political suicide. With a Quinnipiac poll showing that only 17 percent of voters nationwide favor full repeal, all the threats and promises Trump could muster couldn’t bring Yankee Republicans around.

“Ryan and Trump,” explained veteran GOP operative Rick Wilson, “ran into the political version of advertising’s famous Bad Dog Food Test: you can’t sell bad dog food even with good advertising. The dogs won’t eat it.”

Writing in The Daily Beast, Wilson also blamed “Trump’s character, which is never pretty. Trump’s clumsy I’m-just-joking threats against members of Congress fell utterly flat, as did promises of his favor. His word means nothing and lawmakers know it. In Trump’s long, sordid life no deal, contract, agreement, or vow has ever been sacred and inviolable. Ask his wives, partners, contractors, and clients. He is a man without a single shred of regret at breaking even the most solemn commitments. In Washington, no matter how corrupt it looks from the outside, the only currency in a tough vote is trust.”

Gee, I wish I’d written that.

Then by Sunday morning, roughly 48 hours after the bill’s collapse, Trump finally settled upon more plausible villains. “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus,” he tweeted, “with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”

To the ideological purists of the House Freedom Caucus, no remaining vestige of Obamacare’s government-subsidized premiums would have been acceptable. Not even the Ryan/Trump bill, which would have stripped health insurance from a mere 24 million Americans. Not mean enough. These birds don’t merely want to return to pre-Obama health care. To them, the Confederate States of America would be a better model.

But see, here’s the thing: Completely unknown to Trump and Ryan—Trump because virtually everything is unknown to him, Ryan because he’s spent the previous seven years indulging in GOP performance art—the Affordable Care Act has greatly changed Americans’ views. Catch phrases like “socialized medicine” no longer frighten people.

By now, almost everybody knows somebody whose life and/or finances were saved by this imperfect law. Like citizens in virtually all functioning democracies, they’ve come to see health care as a right—not a consumer artifact available at a price.

In response to Trump’s petulant threat to let Obamacare “explode,” most agree with the Kansas housewife who told the AP that sure, the law needs adjusting: “But if your roof leaks, you don’t burn down the house to fix it.”

As long as President Obama was there to veto the GOP’s 60 purely theatrical votes to repeal the law, Speaker Ryan didn’t actually need a workable replacement.

You’d think a fellow con man like Trump might have suspected that he never really had one.

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