Plu­ral­ity of U.S. vot­ers were right about Trump

The Oklahoman - - OPINION - E. J. Dionne Jr. ej­dionne@ wash­

This week, courtesy of Twit­ter, we were of­fered a glimpse of why more Amer­i­cans chose Hil­lary Clin­ton over Don­ald Trump as the ap­pro­pri­ate per­son to be pres­i­dent of the United States.

On Mon­day night, Clin­ton (whose mar­gin, by the way, was 2.9 mil­lion votes) tweeted up a storm. “This hasn’t got­ten enough attn,” she wrote in her opener. “For the first time, Con­gress missed the dead­line to reau­tho­rize the Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram.”

It was the first of seven tweets in which she ex­pressed a proper out­rage over the fail­ure of the House and Sen­ate to re­new a valu­able piece of the govern­ment’s health care safety net that pro­vides in­sur­ance to some 9 mil­lion Amer­i­cans younger than 18.

The next morn­ing, Trump is­sued a tweet of his own: “The Fail­ing @ny­times set Lid­dle’ Bob Corker up by record­ing his con­ver­sa­tion. Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am deal­ing with!”

On the one side is Clin­ton us­ing the at­ten­tion she com­mands on be­half of a group that en­joys lit­tle po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence or lob­by­ing power. On the other is a self-in­volved bully who spends much of his time be­lit­tling those who dare op­pose him.

It’s true that about two hours be­fore he sent out his mis­sive at­tack­ing the Ten­nessee Re­pub­li­can who fears Trump might start World War III, the pres­i­dent did post a tweet on health care: “Since Con­gress can’t get its act to­gether on Health­Care, I will be us­ing the power of the pen to give great Health­Care to many peo­ple — FAST.”

Nat­u­rally, Trump shucked off re­spon­si­bil­ity for not de­liv­er­ing on his prom­ise to re­peal Oba­macare and re­place it with “some­thing great.” It’s all Con­gress’ fault.

As to sub­stance, he was re­fer­ring to an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that aides say he would is­sue this week to undo some of the Af­ford­able Care Act’s reg­u­la­tions and per­mit the sale of cheap, skimpy, short-term in­sur­ance plans likely to ap­peal most to the health­i­est peo­ple.

Trump’s move would un­der­cut ex­ist­ing pa­tient pro­tec­tions and likely fur­ther desta­bi­lize health care mar­kets he has al­ready thrown into chaos with his stealthy ef­forts to sab­o­tage Oba­macare.

Ear­lier this week, The New York Times’ Robert Pear re­ported the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s 41 per­cent re­duc­tion in funds for the pro­gram that helps con­sumers pick plans through the ACA. The new Oba­macare en­roll­ment pe­riod be­gins Nov. 1, and as Pear wrote, “The cuts come at a time of tur­moil in in­sur­ance mar­kets, when more con­sumers than ever may need help nav­i­gat­ing the health care sys­tem.”

If the Clin­ton-Trump con­trast high­lights Trump’s pet­ti­ness, the strik­ing dif­fer­ence in their ap­proach to health care re­minds us that the var­i­ous cir­cuses he is or­ches­trat­ing — around Corker, Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, and kneel­ing at NFL games — are also dis­tract­ing us from the day-to-day harm he and Con­gress are in­flict­ing.

The two-decades-old Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram (CHIP) was a gen­uine bi­par­ti­san achieve­ment, cham­pi­oned by Sen. Or­rin Hatch, R-Utah, and the late Demo­cratic Sen. Ed­ward Kennedy. One rea­son its re­newal has been stalled is House Repub­li­cans’ in­sis­tence on ty­ing an­other five years of CHIP fund­ing to cuts and tweaks in Med­i­caid, Medi­care and the ACA.

As the fights over Oba­macare have shown, many in the GOP seem will­ing to use any op­por­tu­nity avail­able to cut fund­ing for health cov­er­age. If you won­der why com­pro­mise is so hard to come by th­ese days, no­tice that even long-stand­ing cross-party ef­forts are en­coun­ter­ing re­sis­tance and de­lays from the ide­o­logues on the right.

In the mean­time, Trump is do­ing all he can to re­verse the vic­tory of Oba­macare sup­port­ers who saved the pro­gram this sum­mer and again in the fall. Here again, bi­par­ti­san­ship is the loser. Polls show that Amer­i­cans over­whelm­ingly fa­vor mak­ing Oba­macare bet­ter rather than re­peal­ing it. Democrats are game for this. But Trump still won’t go there— although he oc­ca­sion­ally claims to be ready to work with “Chuck” (that would be Sen­ate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer) on al­ter­na­tives to scrap­ping the law.

In fact, Trump cares and thinks lit­tle about pol­icy, and the big news this week may be that the Wash­ing­ton con­sen­sus is fi­nally com­ing around to the ob­vi­ous: that Trump is un­fit to be pres­i­dent, which is what a plu­ral­ity of the vot­ers thought in the first place. That’s all very nice, but he’s still there, and we can’t lose track of the dam­age he can un­leash.

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