The decision on Friday by Paul Ryan and Donald Trump not to bring the Republican Obamacare replacement bill for a vote by the House of Representatives represents a significant defeat for Trump, Ryan, and the Republican Party. Serious doubts abound regarding Trump’s ability to “close the deal,” Ryan’s inability to garner enough support for a keystone piece of legislation, and the future of the Republican Party to govern.
While the “blame game” began almost immediately, it is clear that the biggest loser in this contest is Donald Trump. He campaigned on his skills as a negotiator, a businessman could “make the best deals ever” and his intention to Repeal and Replace Obamacare on Day One. The fact that he could not close the deal in a Republican-controlled House clearly demonstrates his serious lack of understanding of “doing business” in our nation’s capitol.
In his public comments made shortly after the bill was withdrawn stating that he had learned some lessons regarding “loyalty” and some “very arcane laws” prove that he didn’t learn what he needed to know. He didn’t learn that while threats and ultimata might work with other businessmen, they are not the way to gain consensus from politicians who do not owe their jobs to him, but to their constituents.
The “take it or leave it” approach used by his surrogates, particularly Steve Bannon, clearly backfired.
If the Republican agenda is to abandon healthcare reform and move on to tax reform, they will be negotiating from a significantly weakened position. If Trump thought “Who knew healthcare would be so hard?” just wait until he tries to tackle tax reform. He clearly did not think it necessary to master the details of the healthcare legislation or to address specific legislators’ concerns. Tax reform is going to be all about the details, and, as most people know, the devil is in the details
If the failure of healthcare reform were the only problem facing Trump, it would still be a bad first 100 days for him. This is generally considered the “honeymoon” phase of a new presidency when their efforts are most likely to be successful. However, when this is coupled with his two blocked travel bans, as well as the admission by FBI Comey that members of the Trump transition team/administration are under a criminal investigation,
Trump’s first 100 days could easily prove the worst in history. And that includes President William Henry Harrison, who died 34 days after taking office.
With ever increasing calls by Republicans for an independent investigation of ties between Trump and Russia, a major legislative setback, historically low approval ratings (37%) and an administration that is comprised of political neophytes, it is difficult to see how Donald Trump is going to survive his first term in office. It is still too soon to make a plausible case for impeachment, yet. Only the members of his Cabinet know if Article 25 should be invoked.
As Winston Churchill said during World War II “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
This past week certainly marked the end of the beginning of the presidency of Donald Trump. Time will tell when we can safely say it is the end, or even the beginning of the end.