WASHINGTON, March 28, 2017 — The consensus among most pundits and political analysts is that President Trump was the biggest loser when House leadership pulled the American Health Care Act (AHCA)—the GOP replacement for Obamacare—last week due to a lack of Republican votes.
On the surface, the media’s conclusion seems to make obvious sense; namely, that a bill with Trump’s apparently full support failed to get a vote should be bad news for him.
But the obvious may not be true.
In his best-selling book of 30 years ago, “The Art of the Deal,” Trump explained a business tactic that suggests that he might be in a better position than most people think.
From the Washington Examiner:
“President Trump borrowed a page from his bestselling self-help book on Friday when he agreed to pull the American Health Care Act after failing to reach a deal with conservative and moderate Republicans who opposed the bill.
“But Trump’s 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, includes passages that seem to explain why he may have decided to abandon the AHCA after promising to accomplish healthcare reform in his first 100 days. For example, Trump wrote about the importance of being flexible in words that mirrored his remarks on Friday after the bill was pulled.
“‘I never get too attached to one deal or one approach,’ he wrote then. ‘I keep a lot of balls in the air because most deals fall out, no matter how promising they seem at first.'”
Might Trump be more in control of this situation than the media gives him credit for? Yes.
Trump tasked House Speaker Paul Ryan with developing a bill that the House would support. He gave him a public vote of confidence. If Trump is sticking to the strategies in his book, he probably knew that if Ryan were to fail, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Ryan did fail. His bill didn’t have what it needed to make conservatives happy. But it’s not the end of the world.
True, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats celebrated the retraction of what’s regarded as Trump’s healthcare bill as a major victory. But the GOP bill might have saved Obamacare, or at least might have delayed its collapse.
As it stands now, however, Obamacare is almost certain to collapse under its own weight within the next year or two. If the Democrats are forced to own that collapse and Trump is able to use this to put forward an even better bill, then history will remember the AHCA failure as a strategic success.
In other words, this initial failure could turn out to be a net positive for Trump.
The AHCA, in fact, was not a conservative bill. In fact, Paul Ryan failed to include conservatives in the process from the very start. AHCA was also not the bill that Republicans had promised for seven years. Ryan’s argument that parliamentary procedures in the Senate forced him to repeal Obamacare in three phases does make sense. However, can you blame conservatives for being skeptical of Paul Ryan and his intentions? He doesn’t have a sterling track record of coming through on his promises.
The failure of the AHCA was a victory for conservatives like Rand Paul and members of the House Freedom Caucus. It was a defeat for Ryan, who clearly misjudged the support for the bill he had championed for weeks.
As for Trump, it might be too early to tell whether he will ultimately be viewed as a loser on healthcare. After all, he’s outsmarted us before. He can do it again.