Saturday

May 27th, 2017

Insight

The (GOP) Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight

 Bernard Goldberg

By Bernard Goldberg

Published March 27, 2017

The (GOP) Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight
 
 
  Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Remind me not to ask Paul Ryan or his GOP House posse to ever arrange a one-car funeral — because the odds are good that they'd find a way to foul it up.

On March 23, 2010 President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Which means that Paul Ryan and his team had seven years to come up with a replacement for ObamaCare, a replacement that would get enough votes from fellow Republicans to at least make it out of the House.

Instead, they pulled their healthcare bill before the vote - a major blow to the president and the Republican Party. And what made it worse is that they did it all to themselves.

Never mind votes from Democrats who will oppose everything Republicans support at least as long as Donald Trump is president. Never mind, too, what might or might not have happened if the bill made it to the Senate.

Ryan's task wasn't a layup, but seven years is a long time. Long enough, you'd think, to come up with something that would get a green light, again, not from Democrats, not from Senators of either party, but only from the Republicans he supposedly leads in the House.

Seven years of promises to repeal and replace - if only they had a Republican Senate to pass their legislation. Seven years of promises - if only they had a Republican in the White House to sign their new legislation. Well, they had it all and they still couldn't get the job done.

Seven years to smooth out the rough edges. Seven years but only at the last minute does Ryan figure out that the plan he came up with isn't going anywhere? In all of those seven years he couldn't devise a plan that would win over the purists in the party, the so-called Freedom Caucus?

You get the impression that if the one-car funeral procession somehow miraculously made it to cemetery, the Freedom Caucus purists would walk out because the florist delivered 227 flowers to the gravesite instead of 228.

For the record: This is not about which side was right on the merits of the bill. It's about how Paul Ryan and the rest of the House Republicans make the gang that couldn't shoot straight look like marksmen.


They were very good at being the opposition party. They don't seem to know much about being in charge.

Here's the lead paragraph in a story in the New York Times, a newspaper that doesn't need an excuse to find fault with the president. "President Trump's failure to make good on his signature promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is the most crushing political defeat of his early days in the White House."

Maybe the president learned a lesson from this "crushing" defeat. Maybe it finally hit him that being president of a private business is a lot different than being president of the United States.

Mr. Trump's business had no stockholders he had to cajole. He had no board of directors he had to please. This is a man who knows how to build skyscrapers and sell the Trump name. But he's a novice when it comes to politics. It may not have been his fault, but the great closer couldn't close the deal.

Maybe if his approval rating weren't hovering around 37 percent more House Republicans would have feared the power of his presidency and would have gone along with him and Speaker Ryan and passed a bill despite their misgivings.

Or maybe the task was too much not just for Paul Ryan, but for anybody at this point. Entitlements are hard to undo. But then maybe the Republicans shouldn't have made such grandiose promises for seven years.


But let's not let the Democrats off easy, either. They're the ones who passed the Affordable Care Act, with a bunch of grandiose promises of their own that never materialized. Premiums didn't go down. Millions of Americans couldn't keep their doctor or their health care plan - despite President Obama's many assurances.

The critics are right. The Affordable Care Act will blow up. And they're right, too, that the Democrats brought this on. They alone are the architects of what has become the Unaffordable Care Act.

But make no mistake: President Trump will get the blame. The implosion will happen on his watch. Mr. Obama may be gone but his loyal fans in the media are still around.

He's the fire chief now, one journalist on CNN said. He can't show up at the blaze and say I'm not putting it out because it started when the other guy was in charge.

The Republicans may now move on to tax reform. They might want to pray that that effort turns out better than the last one.

JWR contributor Bernard Goldberg, the television news reporter and author of several bestselling books, among them, Bias, a New York Times number one bestseller about how the media distort the news. He is widely seen as one of the most original writers and thinkers in broadcast journalism. Mr. Goldberg covered stories all over the world for CBS News and has won 10 Emmy awards for excellence in journalism. He now reports for the widely acclaimed HBO broadcast Real Sports.

He is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey and a member of the school's Hall of Distinguished Alumni and proprietor of BernardGoldberg.com.


Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles