Donald Trump, aka the President of the United States, was asked today about next steps for the health care system now that the Republican attempts to repeal and replace or repeal then replace the Affordable Care Act have officially failed.
Here’s what he said:
“It’s an absolute disaster. And I think you’ll also agree that I’ve been saying for a long time, let Obamacare fail, and then everybody’s going to have to come together and fix it. And come up with a new plan and a plan that’s really good for the people with much lower premiums, much lower costs and much better protection. I’ve been saying that, Mike (Vice President Pence), I think you’ll agree, for a long time. Let Obamacare fail. It will be a lot easier, and I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then Democrats will come to us and say, how do we fix it? How do we fix it? Or how do we come up with a new plan?”
Yes, that is a real quote. From the sitting President of the United States.
I promised myself after Trump won the White House, I would stop over-using the word “stunned.” But, sometimes the shoe just fits: This. Is. Stunning.
To paraphrase Trump’s answer above (and, to be clear these are my words, not his):
“Obamacare is a bad law that will fail if we do nothing. So, we will let it fail because then we won’t take the blame for its failure. Then Democrats, who will take the blame, will come crawling to us wanting to make a deal because the politics will be so bad for them.”
First off, the political calculation there is way off. Trump – and Republicans – are in control of the executive and legislative branches of government now. That means they own what the government says and does. Blaming Barack Obama doesn’t work anymore. (As I wrote earlier Tuesday, the assumption by Republicans that when Obama was gone Obamacare would still be very unpopular was way, way off.) If the health care system fails and Trump stands by cheering the collapse on, it’s going to be big political trouble for him and his party come 2018 and 2020.
But – and more importantly: The first job of every president is to protect the people who elected him. Yes, as Trump likes to note, that often means protecting people from foreign adversaries.
But it also means protecting them from problems within our borders, too – like, for example, people losing health care in states where the market is failing or insurance companies are pulling out.
What the president SHOULD do in that situation is step in and demand that Congress find some sort of fix – or fixes – to make sure the current law, which is the Affordable Care Act, works for the most people possible as soon as possible. That is the president’s job unless and until a majority of the 535 people elected to represent the country in the House and Senate decide to change that law.
What Trump is doing is almost the exact opposite. He is skating over the fact that “let Obamacare fail” has real-world consequences – that being President isn’t solely about figuring out the best political calculations minute-by-minute.
That is, in a sentence, why being president is different than being a candidate for president.
As a candidate, it’s fine to spend most of your time trying to win. After all, if you don’t win, you can never govern, right?
But being president means sometimes doing things that aren’t perfect politics for you. It means doing things you don’t like or don’t want to do. You’re the president of all the people, not just the people who agree with you or voted for you.
Trump, in his first six months in the White House, has never seemed to grasp that difference – that being President is bigger than politics. That decisions he makes, and doesn’t, have serious consequences for the people he ran to represent.
As president, you don’t get to throw up your arms and say “let it fail.” You’ve got to be the one always willing to find a solution – even a deeply imperfect one – to protect the people you serve.
This is not that. It’s the furthest thing from that. Too bad Turmp doesn’t get that.