Hail the Clueless Yes Man

Trump is clueless on health care. He is not a detail man, but he knows how to make others believe he’s listening, and they walk away believing they have a “yes” from the president.

Whoever last spoke with with President Trump on health care believes they cannot lose. This is how the billionaire deals; it’s how he’s always dealt. He’s the King of “Yes.”

Sen. Rand Paul, who trashed Trump’s now-dead health care bill, told The Washington Examiner:

“We had a great day with the president. Played some golf, and we talked and we talked about a little bit of healthcare. I continue to be very optimistic that we are getting closer and closer to an agreement on repealing Obamacare,” Paul said.

And in an interview with the Financial Times, Trump said he’d work with Democrats to get a health care bill passed.

“If we don’t get what we want, we will make a deal with the Democrats and we will have — in my opinion — not as good a form of healthcare, but we are going to have a very good form of healthcare and it will be a bipartisan form of healthcare,” Trump said during the interview when asked if he would try to recruit Democrats to support future healthcare legislation.

(via The Hill)

The Venn diagram of health care options acceptable to both Sen. Paul and Democrats in Congress yields what they call in mathematics a null set. But that’s how the dealmaker works. You want to make a billion dollars on real estate (or vitamins, or vodka)? “Yes!” Always say “yes!” if it helps people feel good about a deal.

At the risk of not being invited to Mar a Lago, or getting White House press credentials, let me remind us of Trump’s dealmaking, using a blacklisted source–journalist Timothy O’Brien, who wrote a lawsuit-inducing book (TrumpNation) about Trump. The sad tale of Trump’s “Television City” in Manhattan, that he wanted to build from the West Side Yards, is in itself fascinating. O’Brien related it in a piece for Bloomberg.

Ultimately, Trump built nothing, and made a smaller profit than he should have after years of trying. Here’s how O’Brien concluded:

Had Trump kept control of the Yards, he could have vaulted into the top ranks of Manhattan builders. But that would have required him to effectively straddle the public and private sectors, to work with a diverse array of leaders and interests, to stay focused, to demonstrate financial discipline, and to get things done — in other words, to be a great dealmaker.

Trump is clueless on health care. He is not a detail man, but he knows how to make others believe he’s listening, and they walk away believing they have a “yes” from the president.

We might hear next that Trump likes F. H. Buckley’s opinion in the New York Post recommending single-payer (Canadian style) health care, which would both destroy the GOP and the budget at the same time. But Democrats would love it.

Back to the Financial Times:

“Well I will get the Democrats if I go the second way. The second way, which I hate to see, then the Freedom Caucus loses so big and I hate to see that, because … our plan is going to be a very good plan. When I say our plan, not phase one just: phase one, two and three added up is a great plan …” said Trump.

I believe that Steve Bannon has a political agenda, and a vision of how health care should run. I believe Paul Ryan has a political agenda, and a vision of how health care should run. I believe that Trump’s lean White House staff and advisors have vision and ideas. But I don’t believe Trump has a political agenda beyond being in the headlines day after day, and getting to “yes” whether the blasted thing gets built or not.

In this tableau, there will be no repeal of Obamacare. Not unless Congress shoves a bill on Trump’s desk that he simply cannot veto. To do that, the deals must be made without the White House’s involvement. A Republican president who threatens to work with Democrats can’t be counted on to make a deal on repealing Obamacare when he’s already thrown the conservative House Freedom Caucus under the bus for opposing a bill that Rand Paul also opposed (and didn’t repeal Obamacare).

How can Trump continue to blast the HFC, Heritage, and other conservative think tanks, while giving Paul a reason to be optimistic? The same way he kept promising to build “Television City” in Manhattan while blasting Mayor Ed Koch. It never happened, and Trumpcare will never happen unless someone else does it and lets Trump put his name on it (like the Hong Kong investors who built Riverside South at the West Side Yards did).

A president with a vision completely contained in a slogan “Make America Great Again,” with absolutely no depth beneath the words unless others do the yeoman’s work can afford to hand out yesses like other politicians kiss babies. But in the real world, deals have to happen, elections have consequences, and a yes man without a mandate can’t get anything done.

The Wrestling Congressman Responds to Trump

Jim Jordan was a two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion. He is a strong Christian. He is unyielding in his belief that government has gotten too big. And he has come under attack from President Trump for failing to support the health care legislation that would have locked Obamacare into place.

Now, Congressman Jordan is responding and won’t be bullied.

“Tweets and statements and blame don’t change facts,” Jordan, an Ohio Republican, told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And the facts remain the same. When you look at the document, when you look at the legislation, it doesn’t repeal Obamacare.”

He also has promised to do everything he can to help Justin Amash get re-elected should the White House carry out Dan Scavino’s threat to primary Amash.

Who is Poisoning the President’s Mind?

On Friday morning, reports started circulating that President Trump was not a fan of the health care plan Republicans were considering. By mid-day Friday, reports started trickling in that Steve Bannon was distancing himself as well. On Friday evening, after the legislation was pulled, President Trump made it clear he considered the House Freedom Caucus friends. Later, at the White House, President Trump privately reassured people as well that he did not blame conservatives or the House Freedom Caucus.

Then, this weekend, President Trump got on Twitter and railed against the conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus and the Club for Growth. What changed?

The truth is that moderates were a bigger problem, though you’d never know that from the Wall Street Journal and talking heads. Conservatives just wanted Republicans to keep their promises, but moderates kept moving the goal posts toward greater government.

In the end, three run of the mill Republicans, ten moderates, and House Freedom Caucus members all were opposed. As compromises moved left, leadership lost more of the right. As compromises moved right, leadership lost more of the left.

Washington establishment types always blame the conservatives. The Wall Street Journal editorial blaming conservatives over the weekend could have been written any time after No Child Left Behind passed in the Bush era. Paul Gigot wears knee pads for the establishment and always has.

But something changed pretty quickly with President Trump. It was not just his public statement, but private statements as well. Most troubling, however, President Trump told the American people on Friday that the House Freedom Caucus members were his friends and not to blame, then on Twitter, he attacked them.

Is someone else tweeting from his personal Twitter feed? Is he schizophrenic? Or is someone whispering in his ear that conservatives are the problem?

President Trump should note that the loudest voices supporting the American Health Care Act were the loudest voices attacking not just him, but his supporters as well. And they are the same voices that have consistently sold out conservatives and broken the Republicans’ promises.

President Trump is in the White House because of all those people breaking their promises and the public turning against them. He should be careful lest he align too closely with those the public has already rejected.

Trump’s Leadership Fails Cause Lasting Damage: Poe Quits Freedom Caucus

Longtime Houston, Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe has resigned from the House Freedom Caucus. His reason is specifically tied to HFC’s position against Swampcare. Poe said in a statement published by The Hill:

In order to deliver on the conservative agenda we have promised the American people for eight years, we must come together to find solutions to move this country forward. Saying no is easy, leading is hard, but that is what we were elected to do. Leaving this caucus will allow me to be a more effective Member of Congress and advocate for the people of Texas. It is time to lead.

I can’t disagree with Poe’s decision. President Trump went on the attack, shifting all blame for Republicans failure to agree on Swampcare  to the HFC.

If Poe wanted to vote “yes” on the AHCA, being connected with Rep. Mark Meadows and the others within the HFC put him in a pickle. Although the group never voted to formally oppose the bill as a bloc, it was well known how its members felt.

Poe represents some of the more well-heeled areas in north Houston, including Kingswood, an oilman’s planned community built with Exxon’s money and influence back in the 1970’s. He also represents some parts of heavily-Democratic Houston inside the loops. AHCA was probably a good compromise for that particular mix.

Losing one Congressman doesn’t spell doom for the HFC, but it could be the first of many. Add to that the specific calling-out of HFC, Club for Growth and Heritage by Trump and some House members may have good reason to distance themselves. Essentially, Trump put conservatives in the shoot-the-hostage conundrum, demanding their suicide or he’ll shoot the hostages. Then he blamed them for the hostages’ death.

It’s fairly well agreed by most of the writers at The Resurgent that Swampcare was a poor bill and a poorer attempt at “repeal and replace.” The real argument is whether anything better could have been crafted this quickly. There’s considerable disagreement (not just here, but in general) over whether Republicans should have voted for Swampcare as the best start to an Obamacare repeal, or stand firm for a more conservative approach.

Fox News’ Brit Hume ignited such an argument on Twitter, with this tweet. “Smart of [Poe] to quit the [Freedom Caucus], the group responsible for keeping Obamacare in full effect while hurting party & POTUS.”

Read the whole thread and you’ll see all the arguments…here are the main ones on both sides.

a. It wasn’t just the HFC that killed Swampcare, there was significant opposition across the party, and in the Senate (which would have killed it).

b. Swampcare would not have cured the worst parts of Obamacare (unaffordable premiums), so it’s arguable which would “hurt the American people” more.

c. This bill was the best Republicans could have gotten and the HFC squandered it.

I think the problem here is the same one President Trump had with his immigration executive order: premature action. He went for the quick win, and didn’t have the team, plan and talent to make it happen.

Trump thinks he has much more of a mandate to do these things than he actually does. He eschews the normal politicking that goes on for a bill of such sweeping import. He might have been able to sell AHCA if he had gone on the road, sold it to the people in states where health care is in fact a disaster, and laid out a plan for regulatory, legislative and corporate support.

But that requires specific leadership skills that Trump has not shown us to this point. He might learn them in time. But now the issue is one of blame, and Trump would never, ever accept any blame. He told the HFC that it was this bill or nothing, and I believe he’ll stick to that for a while. And the president will make them pay for their intransigence.

Those who want to stand against a president who isn’t afraid to tweet pejoratives against specific congressmen may find themselves pretty lonely on the Hill. That’s not their fault; the blame lies squarely in the Oval Office.

We are off to a very poor start for a Trump presidency. Democrats smell blood in the water. The next big hurdle is Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation vote. If Democrats think they can peel off enough Republicans to stop them from going nuclear and killing the filibuster, they may be able to effectively block him.

Trump’s splitting Republicans on Swampcare may have lasting effects, giving Democrats much more power and confidence when they should be almost invisible as Republicans were in 2010. Too many losses in a row for Trump will spell a very long and painful four years, if the president doesn’t get his house in order.

Bullying Won’t Get Conservatives to the Table

Bullying may work in the schoolyard, but it can’t get you everything in life.

Nor should it.

It definitely shouldn’t be the way our lawmakers in Washington do business, but we know sometimes they still do, with varying results.

Case in point: The failed attempt by Donald Trump and establishment Republicans to force an unwieldy, thinly veiled boondoggle on us, while calling it an Obamacare replacement bill.

The American Health Care Act was not the repeal of Obamacare that was promised on the campaign trail, in 2016.

It was a trimmed back version of the same thing, with only minor fixes.

And while it did have several appealing points, with the nipping of mandates and the defunding of Planned Parenthood, there was so much more that the conservative wing of the party could not stomach.

Planned Parenthood could easily be defunded with a separate budget bill, and that needs to happen sooner, rather than later.

The shenanigans leading up to the planned vote on the AHCA, however, are distasteful, to say the least.

A new report is saying former Breitbart News CEO and current White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, attempted to bully the seasoned professionals that make up the House Freedom Caucus into going against their principles and supporting this bill.

Bannon confronted members of the House Freedom Caucus earlier this week during the White House’s push for the American Health Care Act, Axios’s Mike Allen reported Saturday in his newsletter.

“Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill,” Bannon reportedly said.

But they did have a choice, and they exercised it.

Apparently, Bannon thought he could treat these lawmakers the same way it is reported he treated the staff of Breitbart.

A Freedom Caucus member reportedly replied: “You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.”

Good for him.

President Trump visited with the HFC members himself, several times ahead of the scheduled vote, but some are saying he would not discuss policy specifics of the bill.

Trump preferred to take to Twitter and single them out, saying that for all their pro-life credentials, Planned Parenthood would stand, if they didn’t support the bill.

Again I say, the American people shouldn’t be forced to choke down a horrendous bill to get Planned Parenthood defunded.

It is beginning to look as if Planned Parenthood was the bait used to lure conservative votes, but it didn’t work.

And bullying, blaming, pointing fingers and holding grudges won’t work, either.

The optics on this are bad. President Trump needs a win, now, as does Congress.

Put out a separate budget bill, defund Planned Parenthood, then go back to the drawing board with an Obamacare replacement.

The race for 2018 began yesterday.

The House Freedom Caucus Saves America

The House Freedom Caucus just saved the Republican Party from itself and saved the United States from a Republican attempt to just do something on health care no matter how bad that something might be.

They stood on principle and are being assailed for it by the Republican establishment.

The legislation was deeply flawed and would have hurt a great many Americans. It would have made it harder for free market solutions to lower costs in health care and would have harmed senior citizens.

Obamacare is a terrible piece of legislation and Republicans promised for seven years to repeal it. The American Health Care Act embraced Obamacare and kept it. The House Freedom Caucus stood up both to the Republican leadership in Congress and President Trump and demanded promises made be promises kept. They also exposed Republicans as having no intention of ever really repealing Obamacare.

In 2015, Republicans passed a plan through Congress that would have repealed Obamacare. All the people who voted for it are still there. It passed the House and Senate. That should have been the starting framework. But like the dog that caught the car, Republicans did not know what to do once they finally had the House, Senate, and Presidency.

Their first reaction was to abandon their small government principles and free market beliefs to prop up a government run health care scheme. The only people who stood up for the free market and the people are members of the House Freedom Caucus. They are owed our thanks.

Lastly, I should note that the only reason we have a House Freedom Caucus is because John Boehner led an establishment coup of the Republican Study Committee. The once great organization converted into an organization that rubber stamps the agenda of leadership with elaborate kabuki theater to make it seem like the outcome was in jeopardy when it never was. Sadly, the RSC’s behavior in this proves the House Freedom Caucus is still needed.

Republicans need accountability partners, not yes men. Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, and the House Freedom Caucus are brave to shoulder the weight of accountability when others wish they would serve as yes men. They have done well today.

Many of the “Still Never Trumpers” Today Stand With Trump Against Conservatives

Today, a great many people who are proudly still Never Trump are allied with President Trump in attacking the House Freedom Caucus for its objections to the American Health Care Act.

The AHCA, Swampcare as it should be called, does not repeal Obamacare and everybody knows it. But it scratches the itch to just do something and Republicans want to just do something.

The House Freedom Caucus wants to improve the health care situation for millions of Americans and they want to repeal Obamacare. There were several ways that could have been done.

First, the House could have sent the Senate an actual repeal bill and let the chair rule that it was in order under the Byrd rule. That was the easiest and best option and could have gotten it through.

Second, the House could have used their 2015 legislation that they all supported as the framework for the new legislation.

Third, the House could have just passed the 2015 legislation that they all voted for originally.

It was easy, but moderates objected.

Now the conservatives who want the GOP to keep its promises are getting attacked for demanding Obamacare really be repealed.

Republicans who hate Donald Trump are cheering on the President’s attacks against the House Freedom Caucus. Why? Because they never opposed Trump on principle, but viewed him as a party interloper. They put party ahead of principle and the GOP tells them to jump, so they are going to jump. The GOP tells them conservatives are the bad guys, so they jeer the House Freedom Caucus.

The people who are proudly still Never Trump are standing shoulder to shoulder with Donald Trump today to attack conservatives. Of course they are. It was always about party and never about real principles.

But principles still matter and Swampcare not only does not repeal Obamacare, but it breaks seven years worth of promises.

The House Freedom Caucus is owed a great deal of thanks both for standing up for principle despite extraordinary pressure and for exposing the people who put party and broken promises ahead of principle.

Thank You, House Freedom Caucus

Establishment Republicans are coordinating an attack on conservative House Freedom Caucus members, blaming them for scuttling the Obamacare tickling plan. All House Freedom Caucus members did was insist the GOP keep its promises.

There were several ways they could have done that.

First, they could have sent the Senate an actual repeal bill and let the chair rule that it was in order under the Byrd rule. That was the easiest and best option and could have gotten it through.

Second, they could have used their 2015 legislation that they all supported as the framework for the new legislation.

Third, they could have just passed the 2015 legislation.

It was easy.

But it was the moderates who refused. Moderates decided they could not do full repeal. Moderates decided they had to keep a massive government entitlement plan. Moderates decided they needed to expand Medicaid. Moderates decided they could not get rid of the regulations.

All the House Freedom Caucus wanted was for the Republicans to keep their promises. But the GOP, led by moderates, decided to break their promise.

Now that they have been exposed, they are blaming the House Freedom Caucus. Remember, Senator Mike Lee just yesterday said the Senate Parliamentarian would have allowed repeal of regulations with the plan. That exposes the lie. Moderate Republicans do not want the regulations repealed.

They could have done it and they did not do it.

The House Freedom Caucus deserves our thanks for stopping terrible legislation that would have driven up healthcare costs in America.

The House Freedom Caucus spared the nation the further tyranny of John Boehner and they have spared us the further tyranny of an ever more dysfunctional health care bureaucracy. Thank you!