By DOUG IBENDAHL • March 31, 2017
Ever stop to think maybe there’s a reason why Donald Trump features a certain Rolling Stones classic at every single one of his rallies? He’s done so from the start of his campaign in 2015.
The song contains the timeless truth:
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need
The President has rightly placed the blame for last week’s failure of his healthcare reform bill on the so-called Freedom Caucus. This group of around 30 hardline Republican congressmen mostly came to Washington post-2008, riding an anti-Obama wave from districts gerrymandered Dark Red.
For the last eight years the Freedom Caucus (like the rest of the Republican Party) really hasn’t had to work. They found they could get by just sitting around saying “no” to everything. This was perfectly fine for the voters in their districts and they also received loads of encouragement from the Conservative Entertainment Complex which gleefully shoveled praise from every right-of-center talk show studio.
Bitching about President Obama and preaching pie-in-the sky concoctions was always good for ratings.
That was all well and good back then — but news flash — Barack Obama isn’t President anymore.
Today we have a Republican President who doesn’t know how to just sit-around. Donald Trump is all can-do and overcoming obstacles is what he does.
But he doesn’t suffer fools.
Today we have a President who literally wrote the book on negotiation. And no one knows better than Donald Trump that you can’t negotiate with people who won’t work in good faith.
The President bent over backwards to accommodate the Freedom Caucus. He and his staff sat down with them repeatedly, listened to their concerns, and offered compromises. But this rump faction couldn’t take “yes” for an answer. They kept moving the goalposts. And accommodating the ever-changing list of Freedom Caucus demands meant that moderate Republican votes were going to be lost. That’s where the Freedom Caucus gets the disingenuous claim that other Republicans were the problem.
That’s why the President eventually walked away from the table last week. That’s what a skilled negotiator sometimes has to do when the unreasonableness gets sufficiently absurd.
It’s incredible to see many purported Trump supporters coming to the defense of the Freedom Caucus – obviously forgetting that many of its members were never with Donald Trump in the first place.
The Wall Street Journal was absolutely right when after last Friday’s failure it assigned the Freedom Caucus an accurate name: “the ObamaCare Republicans.”
Social media is disappointingly full of people constantly riding their high horses around and crowing about what huge Trump supporters they are. But yet when it came to this President’s very first legislative initiative, they couldn’t abandon him fast enough for Nancy Pelosi & Co.
Because they refused to trust Donald Trump, history will record these Judas Goats as having helped the Democrats deliver the new President a big defeat which now makes his entire agenda more difficult to achieve.
If all Republicans had simply trusted Trump last week, had we passed the very good bill on the table which both the President and the Vice President fought hard for, today we would be moving forward with tremendous momentum on all fronts, including the second and third phases of Trump’s healthcare reform.
Instead what we see are the same people who refused to support the President are now sitting-around assuming the President will just magically pull a rabbit out of his hat and fix everything. There’s no appreciation for the fact they are putting more work on this President’s plate, a plate which was already fuller than any President has taken on in generations.
It’s just one of the realities of life in today’s Republican Party that the people who are the most self-righteous champions of the Constitution often turn out to be those who have the least understanding about governing under our Constitution.
Politicians like those in the Freedom Caucus (oops, I mean the ObamaCare Republicans) know how to rant-and-rave and pat themselves on the back for loving the Constitution. They know how to pander to like-minded people. But actually accomplishing anything pursuant to our Constitution, not so much.
And it’s not just the fact our population has been pretty evenly split between Red & Blue for decades now. It’s also the fact there are big splits within the GOP as we’ve repeatedly seen. Donald Trump came in after years of GOP dysfunction and failure, and in very short order herded nearly all of the cats. A very good bill was ready to go last Friday.
We’re still stuck with Obamacare today simply because a handful of Republicans only know obstruction and saying “no.”
Donald Trump knows the pressure points in this deal and he’s once again making brilliant use of Twitter to call-out the ObamaCare Republicans for their huge mistake. He’s applying heat to get them back to the table where hopefully this time they’ll work in good faith.
In truth the President has been very gracious. The ObamaCare Republicans deserve a lot more condemnation than they’ve received thus far. But Donald Trump is generously giving the ObamaCare Republicans another chance to do what’s right for America.
Some folks obviously don’t appreciate how the President’s bold agenda is inter-related. Trump is working on multiple fronts every day and he started in Congress with healthcare because portions of his American Health Care Act are needed to achieve the full positive impact on other initiatives such as tax reform.
Republicans who abandoned Trump are now trying to hide the egg on their faces by spreading fake news. Their excuses are lame and gimmicky. They falsely call the failed bill “Ryancare” or “Obamacare Lite.” They ignore the systemic reform Trump’s bill represents, as well as the realities of arcane Senate rules and the political landscape.
The ObamaCare Republicans ignore the fact we had a very good bill, a bill which Donald Trump — who was directly involved in the negotiations and who knew what was possible because he knew the conflicting positions of all factions — told us was the right way to go.
They ignore the fact we missed the chance to immediately repeal huge portions of Obamacare, including both the individual and employer mandates. Trump’s bill would also stop $1 TRILLION in Obamacare taxes, fundamentally reform Medicaid, promote health savings accounts, and defund Planned Parenthood.
Instead, a few decided it would be better to keep Obamacare completely intact for the sole reason that Trump’s plan didn’t immediately offer everything they want – in other words things they’ve failed to achieve for seven years and things which in truth they still have no realistic plan to achieve.
They also want everyone to forget that Trump’s American Health Care Act is based on a bill drafted by then-Congressman Tom Price who is now Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price in fact was the first to write a true, comprehensive bill for replacing Obamacare. Not a gimmick like the Trump deserters clownishly offer. A real bill.
Yes, we all know Paul Ryan is a weasel. Does anyone honestly believe Donald Trump can’t read Ryan like a book? How embarrassing it is to see purported Trump supporters sitting on the sidelines assuming they know better than this President and that somehow Trump was played for a fool. I can’t think of anything more insulting to Donald Trump.
No one knows Ryan’s limitations better than Donald Trump. But Donald Trump didn’t make Paul Ryan Speaker of the House. Republicans in Congress did, including members of the Freedom Caucus. To get anything done in the House you have to work with the Speaker. And make no mistake, it was Ryan who was working FOR Trump on this bill. Ryan may be a weasel (okay he’s definitely a weasel) but he’s a weasel who is terrified of Donald Trump, as he should be.
Losers whine about the hand they’re dealt. Winners like Trump accept the cards their dealt and make the best of it. That’s exactly what Trump has done by giving Ryan so much work to do he doesn’t have time to stab the President in the back.
Finally, to anyone still living in a fantasy world and holding out for “totally free market healthcare” (whatever that is), or who still believes the phony myth that Republicans passed full Obamacare repeal in 2015 (they didn’t), or who is still lazily throwing-out childish talking points like “Ryancare” – it is past time you read Conservatives must learn Senate rules or Obamacare will never be repealed. It’s a terrific article by Chicago’s own C. Steven Tucker, a conservative activist and respected healthcare expert. Tucker sets the record straight on what Trump’s bill does, specifies the sound reasons why Trump’s plan is implemented in three phases, and he explains minutiae like budget reconciliation, the “Byrd Rule” and other arcane realities more clearly than anyone else I’ve seen. His article (and others linked on his site) are must reads for serious people. In other words, for people who want to stand with Donald Trump in actually repealing Obamacare, instead of just sitting around bitching about it for another seven years.
It’s not too late for the ObamaCare Republicans to get onboard. Although the window to get phase one of the President’s plan done with just 51 votes in the Senate via budget reconciliation is rapidly closing. Once that window closes, Trump has no choice but to welcome Democrats to the table and at that point the ObamaCare Republicans have no relevance beyond being a case study in how not to govern.
The President is doing his part. Once again he’s the one being forced to shoulder a bigger load. Trump’s putting pressure on the ObamaCare Republicans even as their enablers whine about bad politicians being held accountable.
The good news is there are some signs of progress. One member has publically resigned from the Freedom Caucus on firm principle. And another member came forward this week to say why he strongly supported Trump’s bill.
If anyone can save the ObamaCare Republicans from themselves, it’s Donald Trump. But the man can only do so much. That’s right, even Donald Trump can’t fix stupid.
Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.