Elizabeth Drew has an interesting take on Donald Trump
Elizabeth Drew writes in the NY Review of Books:
Donald Trump’s substance-free approach to governing may be comfortable for him but it’s caused his presidency big problems. To take the most prominent example, the health care bill: if Trump had paid attention to the details of legislation he’d have been down on his knees in gratitude toward those who defeated it in the House a couple of weeks ago. Had that bill had any chance of becoming law (which it didn’t, since the Senate wouldn’t have agreed to it), it was likely to spell election disaster for Trump and the Republican Party. The Congressional Budget Office predicted that the last version of the bill it saw—following which the bill was made even more restrictive—would have caused 14 million people on Obamacare to lose their coverage next year and 24 million to do so by 2026. While the wealthiest citizens would have received a large tax break, millions of poor people would lose their Medicaid coverage, and in a last-minute concession to the hard right, Trump also agreed to drop a requirement that insurance companies cover such basic services as emergency care, hospitalization, treatment for drug addiction, pregnancy, prescription drugs, preventive efforts, pediatric care, and others.
But Trump was clearly unaware of and unperturbed by what was in the bill; he wanted to win. He told his aides that he simply wanted to sign a bill, that it would make him look presidential.
Trump’s first great legislative defeat threatens to define his presidency. He came across as blundering and incompetent. He is the first modern president to lose his first major piece of legislation. This came on top of other unfortunate firsts: Trump is the first president whose approval ratings began to go down after he won the election and then after the inauguration, and that have kept doing so since. Recent polls show his approval ratings to be from 35 percent to 42 percent, not enough to form a governing majority.
Trump’s nonchalance about substance threatens trouble for other parts of his agenda. When Trump ran for president he said he could get a health care system that would deliver more services at a lower cost and, wonder to behold, would cover everyone. (If such a formulation were possible Obama would have proposed it.) And though Trump stated during the transition that he was drawing up his own health care measure, that it would be ready at any moment, no such bill ever appeared. Absent his own proposal, Trump was the captive of House Speaker Paul Ryan. And Ryan’s proposed bill showed his disposition as a deeply conservative ideologue, contrary to the idea that he’s a thoughtful politician—not to mention one who cares about inner cities and the poor—myths of Ryan’s own making that had been bought by much of the press until now.
Unconcerned with what the bill said, Trump gave way in particular to the Freedom Caucus, some three dozen highly conservative House Republicans who, like their Tea Party antecedents, were unwilling to compromise on their strong beliefs. (This was the group that brought down Ryan’s predecessor, John Boehner, and it’s not enamored of Ryan.) To members of the Freedom Caucus the fact that there were any remnants of Obamacare in the bill—such as coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing kids up to age twenty-six to be covered under their parents’ policies—made it unacceptable. But when Trump gave way to the Freedom Caucus, he lost the support of the roughly fifty moderates who remain in the House and tend to represent urban areas and wanted, among other things, Medicaid to remain intact.
Trump apparently didn’t grasp that in political negotiations, unless one is very skilled, the more you give away the more insatiable the forces you give away to become. It’s not like business trading, where both sides have an incentive to reach a deal . . .
Do read the whole thing. Later in the article:
. . . There’s been a great deal of speculation about shifting alliances among Trump’s White House staff—it’s virtually a daily exercise—but in the end Donald Trump defines his administration. Trump has a mediocre staff, whom he doesn’t treat well. They’re hesitant to give him news he won’t like for fear of being screamed at, a frequent event. Experienced potential aides haven’t been keen to work in a Trump White House and though it’s not widely known by the outside world many of those who are there are unhappy. As one close observer put it to me, “They came to work for the president but found themselves working for Donald Trump.” The moody man at the top is strongly affected by what’s in the news. But so far only one significant aide has seen fit to quit, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’s deputy Katie Walsh; while some reporters described her departure as part of a White House “shakeup,” it’s more likely that Walsh left because she couldn’t stand the unpleasantness of working for Trump. According to reports, with things not going well for him, the atmosphere in Trump’s White House has grown progressively worse. The removal of White House adviser Steve Bannon from the National Security Council is being much examined for its implications, but if Bannon continues to get in Trump’s head it may not mean much at all. . .