Dear President Trump,
Just a question. What exactly, or even approximately, is wrong with you?
I know your relationships to facts and logic are not normal, perhaps because you are so much smarter than the rest of us that we cannot understand your approach to facts and logic, or perhaps because your life experience has taught you that factual accuracy and logical discipline are vastly overrated, or perhaps because you are a compulsive liar, or perhaps facts you don’t like are literally invisible to you, or perhaps because you suffer from some other malady involving some combination of egomania, short attention span, ignorance of the basic requirements of your new job. I confess that I don’t know.
But — for the majority of the population that didn’t vote for you, doesn’t approve of your performance in office, and worries about whatever is wrong with you and how it will affect our nation — it is more than a little unsettling to have to keep asking these questions, especially when you engage in conduct almost every day that makes the question seem more urgent.
There are many examples to illustrate the behaviors that lead us (or, at least, me) to ask you these questions, but a recent and very relevant one was your decision to blame Democrats for the failure of your health care bill in the House.
It’s fairly unusual for a president to call up a newspaper, especially one he routinely insults by calling it the “failing New York Times,” to explain his thinking about why the health care bill failed. But then your explanation to the Times made little sense, including this complaint.
It’s a technically factually accurate statement that no Democrats voted for the bill, although no Republicans voted for it either, since it was hauled down before coming to a vote based on the understanding that it would fail. So this one isn’t a simple fact problem, it’s more a logic problem, or maybe just one of those statements that makes us wonder what our new president is up to in the facts and logic area.
The statement I quoted above was not the only thing Trump said to advance the absurd hope of blaming the Democrats, and he has since blamed others including the hard-line Republicans who call themselves the “Freedom Caucus.” But, for the purpose of this post, I’m not playing that game. He started out blaming the Dems. He has since blamed others without retracting his original blame statement, although never in any version suggesting that he had made any sort of mistake along the way.
In the Failing Times interview, Trump blamed the Democrats but:
- made no mention of the fact that Republicans hold majorities in both houses of Congress and therefore needed no Democratic votes to pass this measure (which was cleverly designed to be the kind of measure that could not be filibustered and therefore could be passed with no Democratic votes even in the Senate);
- made no mention of any of the countless features of the TrumpRyanCare bill that Democrats deeply opposed;
- made no mention of the fact that neither Trump himself nor Speaker Paul Ryan nor their minions made any effort to even ascertain whether there was anything the Republicans could put into or take out of the bill that might cause some Democrats to consider voting for it;
- laid no blame, at least at first, on House Republicans who opposed the bill, and, therefore, were rather obviously the real reason the bill had to be pulled;
- made no mention of the fact that the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) passed without any votes from Republicans, which was an important step on the path to undermining old traditions of bipartisanship. (The final vote on the law that created Medicare in 1965 was substantially bipartisan);
- certainly made no mention of the fact that during the campaign, Trump, who would like to fancy himself a campaign promise-keeper, promised during the campaign to sign into law a health care bill that would cover “everyone” at government expense, and instead finds himself promoting a bill that would, according to the most reliable estimates available (made by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office) cause about 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance during the decade ahead (although, thanks to the same bill, taxes will fall by $883 billion with about 30 percent of those tax savings accruing to the benefit of richest 2 percent of Americans);
So maybe, just maybe, if he had a normal relationship with facts and logic, the president should not have been (or pretended to be) so surprised that no Democrats supported the TrumpRyanCare bill to subsidize health insurance for 24 million fewer Americans while granting significant tax breaks to the wealthy.
And maybe he wasn’t surprised. Maybe he was just spinning a bad situation and understands that blaming Democrats plays well with his base. Most politicians use spin, but most of them have learned how to do it so you don’t feel quite so inclined to laugh out loud when they are doing it.
Trump’s rant was so absurd that, at least according to the Times, his own aides tried to talk him out of it. Here’s that passage:
After it was all over, the president dutifully blamed the Democrats, a party out of power and largely leaderless, after turning his back on their offers to negotiate on a bipartisan package that would have addressed shortcomings in the Affordable Care Act while preserving its core protections for poor and working-class patients.
Several aides advised him the argument was nonsensical, according to a person with knowledge of the interaction.
If you’d enjoy a link to Bill Maher’s opening monologue from Friday night, in which he discusses the TrumpRyanCare failure, it’s here, but caution: It contains foul language.
A small P.S.: As I admitted above, since I first drafted this post but before I put it up this morning, the president has also cast some blame toward some of the Republicans who opposed the TrumpRyanCare bill, and then went to his favorite medium (Twitter) to announce that his followers need not worry about the failure of the bill because they can take comfort in his prediction that “Obamacare will explode” so no one needs to worry about the happy ending to this momentary setback on the inevitable march to making America great.