I've been assuming that President Trump's voters will give him a considerable share of the blame if Obamacare, a program they've been conditioned to hate, isn't repealed and replaced. But this story from The Hill says that much of the right is holding Trump blameless. If conservatives are displeased, it appear that Paul Ryan will be the sole scapegoat:
President Trump has so far managed to avoid becoming a target for the conservative backlash to Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) ObamaCare repeal and replace plan, even as the White House vigorously whips support for the bill.
Ryan hasn’t been so lucky.
Breitbart News, which has long been one of Ryan’s most vocal foes, panned the American Health Care Act as “Speaker Ryan’s ObamaCare 2.0.”
Powerful conservative groups Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, whose leaders discussed the issue with Trump on Wednesday, have branded the bill “RyanCare.” A FreedomWorks digital ad included a photoshopped image of former President Obama laughing with his arm around the Speaker.
And in an interview with Breitbart, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Ryan is working to deceive Trump about the bill, accusing the Speaker of “trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the president.”
Conservative media, outside groups and Tea Party lawmakers have been nearly unanimous in directing their anger at Ryan and GOP leadership, while crediting Trump with being open to helping them improve the bill and negotiate better terms — even as the White House puts its muscle behind the bill’s passage.
“What we’ve seen from President Trump in 49 days in office is that he’s working to keep the promises he made on the campaign trail, so I’m encouraged and optimistic about that,” said Tea Party Patriots president Jenny Beth Martin, who met with Trump on Wednesday.
Wait -- what? Trump is "working to keep the promises he made on the campaign trail"? So why is the bill purely a congressional product, with little or no White House input? Why doesn't the bill fulfill any of Trump's promises (universal coverage, lower cost)? Conservatives' definition of "working" is clearly different from mine.
Trump is making at least one promise it can't keep, as Steve Benen notes:
... Trump is quietly letting Freedom Caucus members know that the White House will support ending Medicaid expansion even faster than the current GOP bill allows. This change, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said, would “go a long way toward getting conservatives to support the bill.”
So, problem solved, right? Wrong. Moving the bill to the right would likely help give the proposal a boost among far-right Republicans in the House, but let’s not forget that in the Senate, quite a few Republicans have already said they’re skeptical of the existing GOP plan because it’s already too punitive when it comes to Medicaid.
Indeed, five GOP senators said this week that this provision alone is enough to make them highly skeptical of the legislation – and it will only take three Senate Republicans to defeat the bill.
The president may not understand this. It’s easy to imagine him sitting down in the Oval Office, hearing from far-right lawmakers, and concluding, “It sounds like they’ll vote for this if we kill off Medicaid expansion. Piece of cake.” This might make strategic sense if it weren’t for the fact that the same move pushes Senate Republicans even further away.
Benen compares this situation to a child playing one parent off against the other:
It’s a trick many children learn at a young age: if one parent won’t give you what you want, quietly ask the other parent, who might offer a more satisfying answer.
Or you could say that Trump is playing the indulgent grandparent who says, "Oh, let the kid get tattoos for her thirteenth birthday." Ignoring the awfulness of the bill for a moment, I'd say Ryan and the congressional leadership are the parents -- they're the ones who actually have to be in charge day to day. They have a terrible bill, but at least they're acknowledging reality when they fight off attempts to amend the bill, because they've probably balanced the damn thing so it has the most appeal it could possibly have for House and Senate Republicans.
But Trump promises everything to everybody, while making no effort to see that what he's promising gets into the bill -- and as a result he's seen as the champion of True Conservatism, while Ryan is seen as a RINO sellout. Also, bizarrely, Trump is retaining his reputation as a master dealmaker, even though he's not actually making any deals.
This could be bad for Republicans in 2018 -- or maybe it will just be bad for Ryan, who might be forced to give up the speakership. Trump might not suffer at all. His voters, living on a steady diet or right-wing propaganda, will continue to believe that he could have gotten a great health care deal -- and will never ask themselves why that never happened.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog