It’s a waste of time to parse the venom that Donald Trump spewed at that Saturday rally in Harrisburg. He was too scared to attend a Washington banquet and take a ribbing from the press corps that holds him accountable, so he ran away and cocooned himself with the credulous. This is the behavior of a weakling.
Far more important was his Sunday appearance on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” where he disgorged blatant disinformation about his latest fruitless attempt to kill Obamacare and replace it with … something or other.
Trump’s mission tanked so badly in March that House Republicans didn’t even bother to bring it to a vote. Trumpcare 2.0 is in the works now — despite the fact that a landslide 61 percent of Americans want Trump to make Obamacare work better, not kill it — and it’s on yet another glide path to failure. One reason why is that Trump is too incoherent, too hopelessly over his vanilla head, to explain how the latest repeal-and-replace bill would affect real people’s lives, much less sell it effectively.
Under Obamacare, insurance companies can’t slap higher premiums on people who have pre-existing health conditions. This has long been one of the law’s most popular features. But when Trump was asked yesterday the simplest of questions — does the new Republican bill protect these people or not? — he was incapable of clarity. Either he was purposefully duplicitous (naw, him?) or simply ignorant about what the bill actually says (naw, him?).
“Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I just watched another network than yours, and they were saying ‘Pre-existing is not covered.’ Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I mandate it. I said, ‘Has to be.’ … They say we don’t cover pre-existing conditions. We cover it beautifully.”
I know this might shock you, but the truth is precisely the opposite of what Trump said.
Under the new House bill — which has been tweaked in order to woo the most right-wing “Freedom Caucus” lawmakers — a lot of people with pre-existing health conditions (disproportionately older than the norm, more financially strapped than the norm) would lose the protections they’ve enjoyed for the last seven years. Basically, states would be given the option of telling the insurance companies, “Go ahead and charge those sick people higher premiums, if that’s what you want to do.”
Those sick people would be put in high-risk pools — just like in the bad old days — and health-law experts like Timothy Jost know what that means. Jost, an emeritus professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, warns that the Republicans’ brainstorm “could effectively make coverage completely unaffordable to people with pre-existing conditions.”
The people who cheered Trump in Harrisburg would probably assail Jost, and other health-law experts, as pencil-necked elitists. But, in all likelihood, this new Trumpcare attempt is doomed because moderate Republican lawmakers in swing districts don’t want to vote for it. The last thing they want is to run for re-election in 2018 after having voted for a bill that screws people with pre-existing health conditions.
Republican Congressman Pat Meehan, from the Philadelphia ‘burbs, summed up the situation last Thursday. The first Trumpcare version in March threatened “to send premiums skyrocketing for people with pre-existing conditions. It will make coverage more expensive for older Americans as they near retirement. The (new Trumpcare version) does not address the concerns I had with the bill as it stood then, and I will oppose the legislation should it come to the House floor.”
After seven years of anti-Obamacare bluster, this is why Republicans can’t even muster the requisite support to stage a floor vote. As center-right columnist Jennifer Rubin noted the other day, the Trumpcare crusade is “the quintessential ‘rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.’ For every Freedom Caucus member who figured he’d jump on the bandwagon, there was a moderate who jumped off.”
And that’s because lawmakers like Meehan know darn well that Trump’s promise to protect sick people “beautifully” is just another crock.
Which brings us to the quiz of the day. Trumpcare failed in March, as I’ve noted, because the House Republicans couldn’t even muster the requisite support for a floor vote. His failure to notch a win, even with a Republican Congress, was a major feature of his first 100 days. His failure on Trumpcare was objective verifiable reality. Nevertheless, here’s what Trump tried yesterday:
“We didn’t have a failure on the bill. You know, it was reported like a failure.”
Our quiz question: When he talks like that, is he knowingly lying or is he certifiably delusional? Welcome to the next 100 days.
By the way, Trump’s interview with CBS News’ John Dickerson was abruptly terminated — by Trump — when he got agitated by questions about his most infamous anti-Obama tweet. (His false claim that “sick” “bad” Obama had wiretapped him.) The exchange was aired on TV this morning. Minus the crosstalk, here’s what happens when a serial liar is cornered:
Q: “You called him ‘sick and bad.’ … You stand by that claim about him?” “I don’t stand by anything. I just — you can take it the way you want. I think our side’s been proven very strongly. And everybody’s talking about it …”
Q: “You’re the president of the United States. You said he was ‘sick and bad’ because he had ‘tapped’ you — I’m just — ” “You can take — any way. You can take it any way you want.” Q: “But I’m asking you — ” “You don’t have to ask me.” Q: “… But you’re the president of the United States.” “OK, it’s enough. Thank you. Thank you very much.”
Speaking of 100 days, this sums it up concisely.