Republicans don't have a health care plan that can replace Obamacare and preserve the Obamacare features the public likes. Republicans will never have such a health care plan -- they've had nine years to devise one, and they've failed.
But what if they go into the 2020 general election claiming to have such a plan, even though they can't show it to us? And what if the mainstream media broadcasts their claims as if they're made in good faith, even though they clearly aren't?
That's what happened this past weekend. And while the press retained a reasonably high level of skepticism, the claims were taken seriously.
Here's The Washington Post:
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway maintained Sunday that Republicans are “working on a plan” for replacing the Affordable Care Act, days after President Trump surprised members on both sides of the aisle when he declared that the Republican Party “will soon be known as the party of health care.”
In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Conway told host Chris Wallace, “The Republican plan is manifold.” But she did not provide specifics, instead going on to attack Democrats over the Medicare-for-all ideas that some in their party have embraced.
Asked by Wallace about criticism that there is no GOP plan, Conway pushed back.
“There is a plan,” she said. “We’ve been working on a plan for a long time. And we hope that Congress would come along.”
“Right, nine years, but you’ve never actually come up with a whole plan,” Wallace responded.
“Well, Donald Trump has been president for two years,” Conway said. “So, give us a chance.... We are working on a plan at the White House.”
(Both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton offered fully developed health care plans in their first two years in office, but never mind.)
CNN acknowledges that an alleged White House working group on health care isn't real:
The President said Thursday he had tasked a handful of Republican senators with cobbling together an Obamacare replacement. No such working group appears to exist, however.
But the press can't say that Trump is blowing smoke and will never deliver -- it can only say that he wants to have a health care fight, Republican members of Congress don't, and he's having conversations with those Republicans...
Spokesmen for Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Rick Scott of Florida, two of the Republican senators Trump listed as being part of the group, said the senators have continued to have conversations with the President and their colleagues about healthcare issues, but made no mention of a working group.
Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the third senator Trump name-checked, spoke with Trump about health care on Wednesday morning, but his staff said they did not have anything to share at the moment when asked about the specific working group.
All while surrogates are fanning out and insisting that the GOP is hard at work on this issue:
On ABC's "This Week," [White House chief of staff Mick] Mulvaney was asked what would happen to the more than 60 million Americans with pre-existing conditions who are guaranteed coverage under the ACA – commonly referred to as Obamacare – and the millions of adults under 26 who are able to stay on their parents' plans if the health care law was declared unconstitutional.
"Can you guarantee that if you succeed in court that all of those tens of millions of people who have health coverage guaranteed because of Obamacare will not lose their coverage?" host Jonathan Karl asked.
"Yes," Mulvaney replied, declaring the "debate about pre-existing conditions is over." He said every replacement plan for the ACA supported by the White House or Congress since President Donald Trump took office included protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Also on TV over the weekend: Rick Scott, lying (above).
I think Trump will abandon this cockamamie effort when Republicans in Congress refuse to devise a new plan, which they know would be a politcal suicide mission. But what if Trump won't let it go, or returns to it in fall 2020? The press might be skeptical, but if the White House and the Trump campaign insists on the fight, the GOP will have to pretend a plan is in the works -- and the press will report that as if it might be true. If everyone gets on board, including the right-wing media, we'll be told that this plan really exists, or absolutely will exist, even though we're not allowed to see it yet, and it's a home run for the GOP (y'know, just like the Mueller report).
We'll be told that the plan will lower costs and preserve access for people with preexisting conditions. There might be millions of dollars' worth of ads to this effect, all contrasting the nonexistent plan with a grotesque caricature of Medicare for All, which will be described as the grim Stalinist future of health care under the Democrats. Democrats might be running against a ghost plan, but it might be treated as if it's real.
Is that a level of bamboozlement that even the GOP noise machine can't pull off? I hope so, but I never want to get too hopeful.
UPDATE: Yes, everyone in the GOP is being recruited to say that the Emperor's outfit looks beautiful:
Republished with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog