What’s Going On: Trump can learn from health care failure

Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, and a whole bunch of other Republicans are learning a tough lesson this week: It’s easier to oppose, than to govern.

As soon as Obamacare took effect just more than seven years ago, Republicans have called it a train wreck, and in my opinion, rightfully so.

They have promised, and especially Trump and Ryan during the last campaign cycle, to repeal it if voters entrusted them with the ability to do so.

In November, voters did just that, handing over government’s reigns, including the House, the Senate, and the Oval Office, to the GOP.

The stage was set. All the ducks were in a row. The environment was ideal for President Trump to do something … huge. Something historic. Something that would make America Great Again.

Then a funny thing happened on the road to paradise: The self-proclaimed expert negotiator couldn’t reach a deal with his own party.

Critics claimed Trumpcare was too similar to Obamacare, and for the ultra-conservatives in the GOP, it didn’t do enough to blow up the old plan.

In short, they wanted more required benefits eliminated, such as no lifetime limits, requiring coverage for dependent children up to the age of 26, and funding for preventive screenings like mammograms. By eliminating these requirements, they reasoned premiums would finally decrease after years of substantial hikes.

President Trump, in cooperation with the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, relied on his tried and true bag of tricks to get the bill passed. He schmoozed some Congressmen with rides on Air Force One and personal visits, he threatened some, and he pleaded with others in last minute phone calls.

But in the end, the man who calls himself “The Closer” at the negotiating table couldn’t close this deal.

The world was Donald Trump’s oyster; and now, he’s shucked that pearl into the deep abyss known as The Swamp.

Among his many campaign promises beyond repealing Obamacare, President Trump promised to “drain the swamp” known as Capitol Hill in order to start making real progress on the problems facing this country.

Health care reform has to be one of the most glaring problems our country currently faces, and this time, The Swamp won.

President Trump had incorrectly assumed the same braggadocio he used in the corporate world negotiating business deals would be equally effective negotiating political ones.

However, he’s learned the sharks that swim in the swamp are a different variety than those found in the corporate oceans. They are an entirely different species, and as such, must be treated and regarded differently to achieve similar results.

This is arguably the biggest misstep so far of President Trump’s tenure as this country’s chief executive. He had made repealing Obamacare a major tenet in his campaign, and as such, invested a lot of political capital to make it happen.

However, it could serve as a valuable learning opportunity for the President who is an inexperienced newcomer in terms of navigating the treacherous Swamp he has bemoaned.

Whether President Trump does learn anything from this though remains to be seen, and is a question only he can answer. It will require a certain level of at least private admission that he’s not as savvy as he once thought, and that he might have overestimated his own abilities.

That kind of humility and self-realization doesn’t seem like obvious attributes he possesses. And in the immediate aftermath Friday of the bill being pulled from the House floor, it certainly didn’t sound like President Trump was experiencing any of those moments of heightened self-awareness. Instead, he was blaming Democrats for the bills’ demise, accurately stating not a single one of them agreed to “cross the aisle” and vote against their president’s landmark achievement, while ignoring his own party’s dissension.

Repealing Obamacare may have been one of Trump’s cornerstone promises, but it certainly wasn’t his only one. He still has legislative battles looming for his controversial budget proposal and immigration policy. He doesn’t have unanimous support in his party for those issues either, and if he doesn’t learn to adjust and change his tactics, he can expect similar results.

For the last eight years, the Republican party got to sit back and criticize, cajole and mock the Democrats and specifically, President Obama. They jeered him and his proposals and did their best to block them, frustrating him to the point of wielding his executive order pen more times than he would have liked.

Now though, instead of just getting to be critics, Republicans are charged with actually fixing the problems they have so effectively pointed out the last several years.

And they are learning solving problems is much more difficult than identifying them.


Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at gorear@nujournal.com.


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