Trump should get off his phone and start lying to my face. All our faces. We, the American people, deserve it. I think.
Some eight years ago, when Democrats were trying to pass their major reform of the American health-care system, Barack Obama put down his golf clubs, got out there in front of me. There were “supercut” videos of the president repeating over and over again that those who liked their insurance could keep it. He got out there and said it to different audiences across the country and in national interviews. He lied like it was his job. In a way, it was. At least he did it.
Actually, Obama and the whole political and media class aligned with him at the time put tremendous effort into publicizing and selling the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Obama’s White House did the laborious work of cajoling the recalcitrant and bribing the reluctant. The Washington Post’s bloggers explained the different pillars of the plan. There were long debates about the so-called public option. Once it was close to its final form, the president wanted you to know about the particulars. Whatever you think about Obamacare, and I don’t think much of it, Obama cared about it. He followed it minute by minute. And studied the details. He knew it was his legacy.
And if he didn’t know that everyone anxious and frustrated with American health care would thenceforward think of his name, then certainly any successor trying a major health reform should know it.
Donald Trump doesn’t care about health-care policy. He has no sense that millions of American will bitterly call out his name whenever they encounter one of the many indignities that the American health-care and health-insurance system visits upon them. Republicans could send him a bill that institutes single payer and he’d sign it just as quickly as he’d sign whatever they do send him. They could institute massive subsidies for building medical centers that revolve around leech therapy. “We’re going to find the best leeches,” Trump would say at the signing. He doesn’t care about anything beyond the grin and claiming credit for doing something great.
And I don’t think he’s alone in this. From opening the Drudge Report, or watching Fox News the past few weeks, it is obvious that the conservative-leaning outlets with massive audiences don’t believe their people care about this bill. They care about the Democrats’ investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia running out of steam. They care about the normal things they care about: crimes immigrants commit, and what the liberals are doing.
And Trump has a sense of what they do care about. Instead of working the phones, steadying nervous legislators, or using the bully pulpit for health reform, he spent some of the crucial time before a final Senate vote tweeting about how Mika Brzezinski rang in the new year by bleeding from her face at his private Florida club. Finally! A new lead image for Drudge.
At least for now, while they have an easily distracted man in the Oval Office, and a Congress that is committed to the usual Republican priorities — tax cuts! — the populist Right is happy enough to see the president use the vast power and prestige of his office to fight the media. It’s a vision of the presidency that’s little more than Sean Hannity’s job, with a few executive orders and judicial appointments on top. Trump is, as much as he can, setting aside the whole responsibility of governance in order to prioritize the Right’s feud with what it sees as the real throne of power, the media. Instead of capturing the media, the presidency channels the Right’s rage at it.
Who could possibly care about the executive and legislative branches of the most powerful country on earth? That’s an afterthought when there are idiot elitists who disapprove of us on cable news!