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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

With President Donald Trump in the White House, so many scandals and outrages pour forth every day that the news media has difficulty keeping up, let alone focusing on what is most important.

And though many perceive that media as being broadly critical of Trump — and there’s certainly some truth in this, though most criticism is more than warranted — this dynamic actually lets the president get by with a lot that his predecessors would have gotten slammed for.
Consider, for instance, the number of uninsured Americans.

When the Affordable Care Act — AKA Obamacare — was enacted, the uninsured rate in the United States plunged from a peak of 18 percent to 10.9 percent, according to Gallup, representing an increase in the insured population of more than 20 million people, a massive jump. This was a historic achievement, but still, Obama got dogged criticism, much of it fair, for Obamacare’s oversights and failures.

Since 2016, however, the trajectory of health insurance in the United States has completely reversed, Gallup has found. From the low of 10.9 percent in its last year, the uninsured rate ticked up to 13.7 percent, a four-year high. That’s an increase of about 7 million people without coverage. Instead of building on Obama’s progress, Trump has gone backward.

What’s driving this isn’t entirely clear, but reporter Sarah Kliff argued in January that it can be accounted for by rising premiums, the Trump administration’s various efforts to sabotage Obamacare, and the mistaken belief that Republicans have actually repealed the ACA.

But whatever the reason, one thing is clear: Trump has failed on his promise to the American people. For the most part, though, the media just ignores this fact.

Gallup’s numbers were first reported on pretty widely when they were released back in January. But even then, the topic wasn’t a dominant story. It didn’t attract the national news media’s interest the way Obamacare stories did under the previous president.

One might argue that this is only fair, because Obamacare was Obama’s accomplishment, not Trump’s. It’s only reasonable to give greater scrutiny to the uninsured rate when the single largest accomplishment of the sitting president is a health care law.

But though it’s easy to forget, Republicans were all about health care for a long time, too. Since 2010, when Obamacare passed, the GOP has promised to repeal it. It was a central theme of every election. In 2016, Trump himself said not only that he would repeal and replace Obamacare but that he would replace it with something much better. “We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” he said.

“I am going to take care of everybody,” he told CBS’s “60 Minutes.” “Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

It wasn’t just Trump. Paul Ryan pledged in discussing repeal and replace: “We want every American to have access to quality, affordable health coverage.”

Now, when the subject is discussed, what’s typically mentioned is the fact that Trump failed to repeal and replace Obamacare. Or the fact that, despite their promises to keep its protections in place, the Republican Party and the Trump administration have lined up behind a legal challenge that could prompt the Supreme Court to eradicate Obamacare root and branch. Or the administration’s efforts to promote junk health insurance plans.

All of this is important. And yet in all these arguments, it seems the thread has been lost. Despite his explicit promises the contrary, health care has already become more difficult to get under President Trump, and millions more people are going without insurance. This is either directly because of actions his administration has taken or because of his failures to live up to his promises. There are many other scandals going on every day in the news cycle, so it’s understandable that this fact could get lost.

But the failure of this fact to land on the national radar also comes from a more pernicious fact: reporters never took the GOP’s or Trump’s claims to want to improve health care in the United States seriously. Even when they reported Republicans’ claims credulously, almost anyone in a position to professionally cover politics knew enough to be confident that the party really didn’t care about or intend on increasing the number of people who have insurance.

So when Trump actually led to an increase in the uninsured rate, this didn’t seem like much of a surprise or revelatory story. Contrast this to reporter’s attitudes under Obama, who’s every health care failure was regarded (rightly!) as a serious story. In this way, the GOP’s duplicity is rewarded, while Democratic sincerity is punished.

But health care is still a top-tier issue that voters care about it. The media would better serve the public by making Trump’s galling failure clear.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.