The Art of DealingThuggery

Terry H. Schwadron

So, in the end, the Great Deal-maker couldn’t.

He used his wheel and deal skills, he roared, he threatened, but in the end, the President and Speaker Paul D. Ryan couldn’t get the votes even among his own party to repeal and replace Obamacare. So they pulled their prized, but terrible — and amended to make worse — bill.

All else aside, it was a come-uppance of major proportion for Republicans, for the President, for Speaker Ryan. Frankly, now it invites different factions to line up to pursue similar protests against tax changes, a weird approach to infrastructure and his campaign against immigrants. Once the President realizes that he does not have even full support within his own party, it opens the door for full-scale revolt by legislators on all sides out for more targeted concerns in the coming tax cuts legislation or immigration.

Mr. Trump and Speaker Ryan said they were disappointed, but then the blame went to Democrats — remarkable only because this was a fight within the Republican Party. And even more because in an attempt to gain votes, they agreed to cut out whole areas of coverage like mental health and prenatal care.

Meanwhile, two things are true.

  • None of this will help make health care more secure for those who are seeing their deductions and health care policy costs increasing. There are things that the President’s team can do to help the situation rather than ruin it, including lifting the executive order to agencies that allowed the IRS to stop enforcing the individual mandate, for example. Indeed, Mr. Trump indicated that he would let the system fail, if it is indeed failing.
  • Cn we now stop calling Donald Trump a populist? While Mr. Trump proved fallible as a political leader, trumpeting the politically Unpolular side of the debate here, through this campaign, he has honed the building, unpleasant image for himself as political thug.

The delays, the rising expectations for a must-have vote, the scrambled demand for an I-am-done-talking-with-you position all came to a thudding stop: President Trump made the call to simply stop. Amidst a flood of words and opinions from politicians and pundits alike, the bare truth was that Donald the Deal Maker could simply not dictate to legislators.

The question now is whether the President and the Speaker have learned anything, and can focus their health care attentions on making improvements on high deductibles, better health protections and lower policy costs.

Blaming Democrats was ludicrous; the President turned increasingly to more right-wing elements in trying to save the bill, not to those who would seek to repair rather than repeal.

The path to this point has been a bruising one

Along the way, The Art of the Deal has morphed formally into The Art of Thuggery. In the weeks ahead, we will have to see how Trump the Dictator has to become Trump the Persuader.

Meanwhile, it has been all about Win, and Win at Any Cost, an environment where all that matters is looking like a winner. Face down those against the health care bill of the moment, and announce you have won, regardless of the actual vote. The White House has made clear it will sell out, crush, publicly call out or oppose anyone who gets in their way — even if their way leads nowhere.

So great has been the need to Declare a Win that Team Trump turned language upside down, essentially was telling us that denying health to millions was somehow extending health care to everyone, that dropping mental health coverage was perfectly fine, that higher insurance premium is a good trade for already high premiums. They asked us to accept that their mandate is to overturn Obamacare, even if they were replacing it with less, with a watered-down Obamacare, or nothing at all.

Make no mistake, there was nothing about “patient-centered” health here. There was the Need to Win, the need to overturn something with Obama’s name, the need to give tax benefits to the wealthy and to attack standing entitlement programs.

Along the way, President Trump promised to try to crush individuals who opposed the bill he had decided to support, might blame Speaker Paul D. Ryan, would abase Democrats, doctors, nurses, hospitals, governors, senators and even the so-called Freedom Caucus Republicans in the House.

For me, watching a bruising political fight between those who would shove millions off health care and those who want no government programs at all was almost irrelevant. All of the ideas that had advanced were terrible. Some simply had been more terrible than others.

I’m still looking for the networks to stop covering health care with whip counts of votes and onto the effects of bad health care coverage.

Rather than clearly identify and repair the excessive issues found in Obamacare, Republicans steadfastly insisted on something that carries a title of Repeal. Even the President says basically that he didn’t care about the substantive details, he just wanted a win.

Guess what. He lost.