Even as the Trump White House continues to calibrate the right response to the news that North Korea may have miniaturized a nuclear weapon, President Donald Trump started a very public fight with the most powerful Republican in the Senate.
“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so,” Trump tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?”
That Trump tweet came just hours after this one from White House social media director – and Trump confidant – Dan Scavino Jr.: “More excuses. @SenateMajLdr must have needed another 4 years - in addition to the 7 years – to repeal and replace Obamacare…”
Scavino added a link to his tweet of a video of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaking at an event in Kentucky on Tuesday – which is what started this all up.
“Our new President, of course, has not been in this line of work before,” said McConnell, according to a local CNN affiliate, which covered the event. “I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”
McConnell’s criticism – Trump is a newbie in politics and doesn’t totally get that things move incrementally even in the best of times – seems relatively mild especially compared to Scavino’s response. It’s also a criticism that plenty of Democrats leveled at then-President Barack Obama in the early days of his presidency.
The simple fact is that McConnell was always skeptical that there were 50 votes for any sort of health care overhaul. It’s why he tried to fast-walk the legislation before the July 4 congressional recess so he could move on to tax reform, where he’s said there’s more opportunity for a win.
But, even after McConnell was forced to delay that vote, he continued to push for passage of some sort of health care bill – ultimately coming up a single vote short. It was a swing and miss to be sure, but not, as far as I can tell, as a result of anything McConnell left on the field – which is the clear implication in Trump and Scavino’s tweets.
Beyond the overreaction, what baffles me is whether Trump did this in a fit of pique or whether there was some sort of intentionality or strategy behind it. For the life of me, I can’t figure that one out.
Remember that for everything that Trump wants going forward – tax reform, funding for the border wall, maybe even another shot at health care – he needs McConnell. Badly. And despite the health care setback, McConnell still inspires considerable loyalty among his colleagues.
Picking a fight with someone: a) you need to get things done and b) people look up to, seems to me to be the essence of playing dumb politics. Maybe Trump (and Scavino) have some sort of grand plan here I don’t see. Always possible! But from where I sit, this was a needless fight to pick that could have decidedly negative consequences on the Trump’s agenda in the future.