Wednesday, February 8, 2017
#OyVeyDonaldTrump Versus PaulRyan in ObamaCare . Make A Pact with the Devil or Ignore his outrageous absurdity
PAUL RYAN’S CRAVEN PACT WITH DONALD TRUMP
By John Cassidy February 7, 2017
Since Election Day, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has been very careful in his responses to Donald Trump’s controversial statements.Photograph by Win McNamee / Getty
On Tuesday morning, at about the time that Donald Trump was casually threatening to destroy the career of a Texas state senator who had objected to laws regarding the forfeiture of property from drug suspects, House Speaker Paul Ryan and his colleagues in the House Republican leadership held their weekly press conference on Capitol Hill.
Ryan began by talking about Republican efforts to roll back “excessive regulation”—which is killing jobs, he claimed—and then he moved on to the Affordable Care Act. Blithely ignoring the recent announcement that 9.6 million people have signed up for coverage this year on the private insurance exchanges set up by the law, the Speaker declared that he and his colleagues had decided “to rescue the American health-care system from the collapse that is coming because of Obamacare.” Moving “step by step,” he said, the Republicans would replace the current reform with “a much better system, a patient-centered health-care system” that is “far better for families, far better for patients.”
Ryan then took questions. This was the first one: “The President made some new false statements yesterday, notably that there are major terrorist attacks that the media, essentially, isn’t covering. Are you getting concerned at all about his grasp of the truth?”
Ryan shrugged his shoulders. Since Election Day, he has been very careful in his responses to Trump’s controversial statements, sometimes ignoring them, sometimes downplaying them, and often adopting the mantra that he doesn’t comment on the tweet of the moment. But this latest Trump lie didn’t come in a tweet; the President said it during a speech to U.S. troops at a military base in Tampa. Evidently, Ryan felt he had to say something, even if he sounded even more craven than usual.
“Look,” he said. “I’m going to do my job. I’ll let you guys do yours with respect to how you report, or what you don’t report. The problem is we do have a war on terror in front of us. We do have isis trying to conduct terror attacks across the globe. This is a real serious problem. And what I am focussed on is doing our job and making sure our law-enforcement authorities, our military, have the tools to keep us safe.”
Of course, Ryan hadn’t answered the question. His inquisitor pressed him again: “Are you worried that it hurts our credibility around the world?” Again, Ryan shrugged it off. “I can’t speak to whether or not you are over- or underreporting something,” he said. “That is your job. I’ll stick with doing mine.”
The next question was about Trump’s attacks on Judge James L. Robart, the federal judge in Washington State who issued a temporary freeze on the President’s anti-Muslim travel ban. “Look, we respect an independent judiciary. This is a separate branch of government,” Ryan said. But, after this promising start, he made an attempt to normalize Trump’s statements.
“Look, he is not the first President to get frustrated with a ruling from a court,” Ryan said. “I think what is most important are the actions. This Administration is honoring the ruling, and this Administration is going through the proper procedures to deal with the ruling—to try and get the ruling overturned. They are going through the appeals process…. Look, I know he’s an unconventional President. He gets frustrated with judges. We get frustrated with judges. But he’s respecting the process, and I think that’s what counts at the end of the day.”
It is perhaps worth recalling what, specifically, Trump said about Judge Robart. He didn’t merely vent his frustration that one of his edicts had been challenged. Two days in a row, he attacked Judge Robart personally on Twitter. On Saturday morning, he referred to Robart as a “so-called judge” and said his ruling was “ridiculous.” Later that day, he broadened his attack, and appeared to question the authority of courts more generally. “What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into US?” Trump wrote. And he didn’t leave it there. On Sunday evening, he said, in yet another tweet, “The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart. Bad people are very happy.” And he went on, “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system.”
Last July, when Trump attacked Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge who was presiding over a Trump University lawsuit, and claimed that Curiel had a conflict of interest because of his “Mexican heritage,” Ryan called foul. “Look, the comment about the judge the other day just was out of left field, for my mind,” Ryan told an interviewer. “It’s reasoning I don’t relate to. I completely disagree with the thinking behind that.” Ryan didn’t stop there. After noting that Trump “clearly says things I do not agree with, and I’ve had to speak up from time to time when that happens,” he promised to do the same thing going forward, if it were necessary.
Evidently, the spectacle of a sitting President—not merely a Presidential candidate—tearing into a federal judge who has blocked one of his initiatives, and suggesting that he should be blamed for future terrorist attacks, didn’t rise to the standards of “necessary” in Ryan’s mind. Why could that be, do you think?
On Tuesday, after dismissing Trump’s comments about Robart, Ryan returned to the issue of repealing and replacing Obamacare, saying that legislation would be passed by the end of this year, although he acknowledged that the actual implementation of the reforms to the reform could take longer. When a questioner asked what the new health-care system would look like, he referred her to “the plan we ran on in 2016”—by which he meant his own plan, which goes under the name “A Better Way.” “That’s what I think you should take a look at,” he said.
This was another statement that bears inspection. Last month, Trump promised that his replacement for Obamacare would provide “insurance for everybody.” The Ryan plan, however, does not even pretend to be a universal-coverage plan. It replaces subsidies for purchasing insurance plans with less generous tax rebates, hacks away at Medicaid, and junks the principle that insurers must treat the sick and healthy alike. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Health & Economy, Ryan’s plan would lead to about four million fewer Americans getting coverage than under the current law. (Other estimates for the losses in coverage under Ryan’s plan are higher.)
Ryan didn’t point out any of this, of course. It’s an open secret in Washington that he and his colleagues intend to ignore Trump’s statements about covering everybody and proceed with a version of Ryan’s proposal that may well end up including elements from other Republican blueprints that are kicking around on Capitol Hill. “We do have plans—our committees are busy, under way, doing this,” Ryan said. “And we hope to get this done as fast as possible.”
He refuses to criticize the President’s statements, no matter how outrageous they are, and pushes ahead with conservative policies that have been part of the G.O.P.’s agenda for years. Could the terms of the pact that Ryan has made with Trump be any clearer?