SAN DIEGO, March 3, 2017 — President Trump recently discussed Obamacare’s future with Bill O’Reilly on his Fox New show, The O’Reilly Factor. O’Reilly seemed confident that Trump was going to stick firm to his campaign position that he was going after Obamacare from day one. Then he asked for details about the timeline.
It had to be a shock to the host and the millions watching the interview when Trump said that he was moving the timeline of even introducing an alternative package to 2018.
The implications of this decision are numerous and significant.
In their anxiety over Trump and Obamacare, some people have fallen into conspiracy thinking; Trump’s timeline demonstrates his lack of desire to do anything about Obamacare. It has been noted by many that citizen Trump long supported socialized medicine before he opposed it.
An alternative view is that it is a total “rookie” move for someone who has no elected political experience but who now finds himself the President of the United States. Pure on the job experience is pretty dangerous when the job is the presidency of the United States.
Even in his opposition to it, Trump has supported elements of Obamacare. These include politically popular provisions like guaranteed coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions and the extension of coverage to adult children, which are also the most expensive provisions to maintain.
Trump’s timeline would put the debate over Obamacare in the middle of an election cycle. It has the potential to wipe out much of his support in Congress.
Conspiracy theories are best avoided, even though many have certainly become easier to believe over time. It is better to work with facts and evidence. Trump’s lack of experience is evident, and even his supporters in the GOP have been shocked by his sophomoric behavior and rhetoric:
- His statement of “moral equivalency” in discussing the similarities between Putin and US leaders;
- his bizarre implementation of his “extreme vetting” program that seemed designed to foster more sympathy for those going through it than for those who were hoping to see a more secure and safe country;
- the strange promotion of “alternative facts” by his counselor, Kellyanne Conway, which he has done nothing to distance himself from.
Trump’s rhetorical tools are old and often used, but rarely so clumsily as by Trump and his team. The critics who call him an incipient tyrant are hysterical, but his language seems as designed to destroy meaning as George Orwell’s Newspeak. It is hard to imagine how the overt deployment of such rhetorical tactics will boost his administration’s credibility.
Trump’s decision to punt Obamacare to 2018 is as shocking as any poor decision he’s made so far. It has the potential to become a perfect political storm and shows the president is as tone deaf as Congressional Republican leaders when it comes to the GOP’s electoral successes in 2010, 2014, and in 2016.
Trump now seems to treat his anti-Obamacare rhetoric as merely part of a political strategy. But when he was running, virtually every speech included his intention to wage war on Obama’s healthcare plan from day one. With his intention to wait until 2018, many of his core constituency will see him as a complete sellout.
Members of Congress up for reelection will have to explain why it took so long to tackle Obamacare. People who have grown fond of the program will be more committed to it, and many of those who currently hate it will find themselves dependent on it. Trump will have thrown GOP members “under the bus” as they work to get reelected and spend their time explaining why it took so long to introduce a bill, let alone pass it.
In the end, Trump either has no problem with Obama’s approach to healthcare or he is one of the most politically naive people to hold the highest office in the land.
Either way, the GOP Congress faces an existential crisis in 2018.
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