The Emperor Has No Scrubs
Here are a few quick thoughts on the failure of Trump to push through efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. It looked bad. It was much, much worse than it looked.
Trump as Dealmaker: While he is a master personal marketer, Trump’s reputation as dealmaker has always been overblown; based on some combination of his own propaganda and a ghost-written book. What we witnessed over the past couple of weeks was the opposite of the art of the deal. He didn’t have a firm grasp of the issues, he didn’t build any leverage, and he was remarkably lazy. By his own account, Trump didn’t even know what the deal was. Look at this excerpt from WaPo.
Even as he thrust himself and the trappings of his office into selling the health-care bill, Trump peppered his aides again and again with the same concern, usually after watching cable news reports chronicling the setbacks, according to two of his advisers: “Is this really a good bill?”
Sean Spicer said his boss “left everything on the field.” What he left on the field was his homework. Curiosity killed the cat. As much as anything, a lack of intellectual curiosity killed this bill.
Next time you need to negotiate a complex deal like this, forget the self-aggrandizing businessman and get yourself a community organizer.
If nothing else, let’s hope this experience ends the cable news meme that envisions Trump as a master dealmaker. All we need is someone to justifiably sue Trump and win, and then this health bill clown show will look exactly like most of his other deals.
Trump, the Brand: Trump loves to put his name on everything. Don’t ever let him take it off of this health bill.
Trump, the Populist: Trump may have lost. But Trump supporters won. And that tells us a lot. This bill would’ve been a disaster for millions of Trump supporters living in red states. He made them promises. And then he went to bat for a bill that gave me a tax break and threw them under the bus. (At least if they get injured under the bus, they’ll still be covered by Obamacare…)
Trump, the Blamer: The biggest question following the decision to pull the plug on Trumpcare was who would get blamed. Even for a guy who is America’s greatest purveyor of fiction, Trump’s effort to blame the democrats is far-fetched and absurd. Want to blame someone? Blame the guy who couldn't answer the question “is this really a good bill?” because no one on cable news provided a simple enough answer. Intellectual laziness is somehow a plus in elections. But it’s a minus when you’re putting your name on a health bill you don’t understand.
Trump, the Bedside Manner: “Obamacare unfortunately will explode. It’s going to have a very bad year. Democrats will come to us and say, ‘Look, let’s get together and get a great health care bill or plan that’s really great for the people of our country.’” First, Obamacare will not explode. Second, the bill that just failed would have kicked 24 million people off their insurance. And third, this statement by Trump sheds light on what really drives him. It’s all about the game and all about perceptions. Here’s what it’s not about: Helping sick people get better care. Look, I’m just another guy puffing my vape on the couch in my underwear and taking some political potshots. But, Bro, you are the president. You can’t be purely political. It’s not just about the art of the deal or the marketing of the brand. You’ve got to actually give a shit about people.
Trump, the Art of the Schlemiel: Trump looked somewhat strong when he forced the vote. It’s a pretty classic negotiating tactic. You’re buying a car. You make your final offer. The car salesman says no. So you walk off the lot. The key element in this negotiation is that you keep walking until the salesman yells, “Wait, maybe I can match your price.” Trump pushed his seat away from the table and demanded a vote. But then he decided to “pull it.” That’s like handing the car salesman your wallet and then walking off the lot.
Trump, the Leader: All we know for sure is where the buck won’t stop.
Trump, Being Trump: Trump’s tweets and threats had no impact. He has already blown his wad. His popularity numbers are down. He’s not trusted. All those so-called distractions not only weakened him in the eyes of America and the world. It weakened him in the eyes of his party.
Trump, the Big Picture: In a good overview of the health care saga, Tim Alberta described a moment when Trump interrupted a GOP meeting on health policy issues in the bill and said: “Forget about the little shit. Let’s focus on the big picture here.” Well, he got what he wanted. House Republicans forgot about the Little Shit, and voted how they wanted.
Trump, the Bottom Line: His first big negotiation was a farce and failure. He threw his supporters under the bus for any kind of win. And lost. Now the pressure is really on Jared to solve the Middle East peace process.