Tim Alberta offered a vivid anecdote:
Thursday afternoon, members of the House Freedom Caucus were peppering the president with wonkish concerns about the American Health Care Act—the language that would leave Obamacare’s “essential health benefits” in place, the community rating provision that limited what insurers could charge certain patients, and whether the next two steps of Speaker Paul Ryan’s master plan were even feasible—when Trump decided to cut them off.
“Forget about the little s***,” Trump said, according to multiple sources in the room. “Let’s focus on the big picture here.”
The group of roughly 30 House conservatives, gathered around a mammoth, oval-shaped conference table in the Cabinet Room of the White House, exchanged disapproving looks. Trump wanted to emphasize the political ramifications of the bill’s defeat; specifically, he said, it would derail his first-term agenda and imperil his prospects for reelection in 2020. The lawmakers nodded and said they understood. And yet they were disturbed by his dismissiveness. For many of the members, the “little s***” meant the policy details that could make or break their support for the bill—and have far-reaching implications for their constituents and the country.
Maybe to Trump these details about the bill were “the little s***.” But to the members in front of him, this was the make-or-break criteria of what makes a good reform bill. You would think the author of The Art of the Deal would have understood the importance of knowing the other side’s priorities. I seem to recall impassioned, insistent assurances during the 2016 Republican presidential primary that Trump was the ultimate dealmaker.
Shortly after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled the Republican health-care plan on March 6, President Trump sat in the Oval Office and queried his advisers: “Is this really a good bill?”
.. “Is this really a good bill?”
In the end, the answer was no — in part because the president himself seemed to doubt it.
.. The bill itself would have violated a number of Trump’s campaign promises, driving up premiums for millions of citizens and throwing millions more off health insurance — including many of the working-class voters who gravitated to his call to “make America great again.”
.. He did not speak fluently about the bill’s details and focused his pitch in purely transactional terms. And he failed to appreciate the importance of replacing Obamacare to the Republican base
for the president, it was an obstacle to move past to get to taxes, trade and the rest of his agenda... As president, he was selling the rare product on which he refused to emblazon his name — devoting himself to an issue for which he has little real passion.. Alluding to the long-running dramas on Capitol Hill, Trump added, “There are years of problems, great hatred and distrust, and, you know, I came into the middle of it.”
.. the president dialed Rep. Joe Barton, a wavering Republican from Texas
.. His senior aides described him as “an extremely good listener” and said his negotiating skills were the product of “total natural talent,” saying he could turn up the heat or the charm as needed.
.. found himself caught in the middle of factional House GOP dramas that have been simmering for years. As one member of the House Freedom Caucus described it: “We’re competing with Ryan. We like Trump.”
.. his thinking was straight from “The Art of the Deal”: If the White House continued to postpone the vote, the holdouts would gain leverage and learn the dangerous lesson that they could challenge Trump and win. Lawmakers wanting to oppose the president would have to do so publicly, in a vote, and face the consequences.
.. news Trump announced in a phone call with The Post, before Ryan even had time to personally brief GOP members.
.. Meadows said his mantra in negotiating with Trump had been, “If this was about personalities, we’d already be at ‘yes.’ He’s charming, and anyone who spends time with him knows that. But this is about policy, and we’re not going to make it about anything else.”
.. For Meadows, a sticking point was essential health-benefit requirements under the current law for insurance companies, such as maternity and newborn care, and substance-abuse treatment, which he wanted removed
.. moderate Republicans, known as the Tuesday Group, stood opposed to the bill
.. described it as “a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit,” with the president boasting about how “great” the bill was and his aides seconding his assessment “like a Greek chorus.”
.. which he likened to an act of betrayal
He’s not delivering Americans from cynicism about government. He’s validating that dark assessment, with a huge assist from Paul Ryan and a cast of House Republicans who had consistently portrayed themselves as sober-minded, mature alternatives to those indulgent, prodigal Dems, if only they had a president from their party who would let them work their magic.
.. It was pushed on lawmakers not as essential policy but as essential politics: The president needed a win, and the party had to make good on an incessantly repeated pledge.
.. “Because we said we would” became the motivating force for the legislation.
.. In one Quinnipiac poll, only 17 percent of them said that they favored the emerging Republican alternative to Obamacare, while 56 percent opposed it.
.. That Trump isn’t good at details and follow-through comes as no surprise. Ryan’s miscalculations are the greater revelation.
.. “Convenient how Trump flips from an all-powerful master negotiator to well-intentioned simpleton duped by Snidely Ryan at the drop of a hat,” tweeted the conservative columnist Ben Shapiro.
In an interview with Forbes published Friday, Eric Trump described the setup as “kind of a clear separation of church and state that we maintain.”
“I am deadly serious about that exercise,” he said. “I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us. That’s kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it’s something that we honor.”
But nearly two minutes later, Trump admitted that he will keep his father up to speed on some aspects of the business.
“Yeah, on the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that’s about it,” he said, adding that the updates will be “probably quarterly.”
“My father and I are very close,” he said. “I talk to him a lot. We’re pretty inseparable.”
.. “He is breaking down one of the few barriers he claimed to be establishing between him and his businesses, and those barriers themselves were weak to begin with. But if he is now going to get reports from his son about the businesses, then he really isn’t separate in any real way.”
.. “From a business standpoint, is the presidency beneficial?
.. “I would say that we also made great sacrifices and that the business made great sacrifices in that when you limit an international business to only domestic properties, when you put hundreds of millions of dollars of cash into a campaign, when you run with very, very tight and strict rules and the things that we do every single day in terms of compliance — I don’t know. You could look at it either way.”