Donald Trump summoned all Republican Senators to the White House yesterday so he could use his Extreme Deal-making Power to bring the Republican health care bill to a successful close. Only … not one word of that is true.
First, Mitch McConnell set up the meeting. Second, it was clear the bill wasn’t going to pass any time soon. Third, no one—no one—expected Trump to do anything about it.
Mr. McConnell, who kept the president at a polite arm’s length while he oversaw negotiations over the bill, asked Mr. Trump to arrange the meeting with all 52 Republican senators during a morning phone call, in part to show senators the White House was in fact fully engaged, according to two people with knowledge of the call.
The problem for Trump is that Republican Senators have met him. They’ve learned already that he’s not Donald Trump, as seen on TV. He’s Donald Trump … as seen on Twitter.
When asked by reporters clustered on the blacktop outside the West Wing if Mr. Trump had command of the details of the negotiations, Mr. McConnell ignored the question and smiled blandly.
Donald Trump, expert deal maker, is a television creation. He was competent and commanding because that’s the way the scripts were written. Real life Donald Trump is the guy who has declared bankruptcy, not the four times he admits to, but six times. Real life Donald Trump is the guy who not only failed in the casino business, he only kept it going for a year with an infusion of $7.5 million from his father … and borrowing another $9 million from his father’s trust … and by doing so much money laundering that he had to pay a massive $10 million fine. Real life Donald Trump is the guy who only climbed out of the hole with the help of Russian crime bosses eager to use his real estate business to launder their stolen funds. In real life Donald Trump couldn’t close a door without someone to help him out behind the scenes.
Real life Trump—Twitter Trump—is mostly upset that people are seeing behind the TV creation, and he’s complaining about it, where else, on Twitter.
Donald Trump’s Wednesday morning routine diverted from Fox & Donnie’s Friends long enough to glance at a newspaper.
That story would be this story. The one that says …
The Trump team’s heavy-handed tactics have been ineffective in the Senate, and White House officials determined that deploying Vice President Mike Pence, a former congressman with deep ties to many in the Senate, was a better bet than unleashing Mr. Trump on the half-dozen Republicans who will determine the fate of the Senate bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
The facts are that Trump has been ineffective and disengaged in the Senate process. Those are facts that have been confirmed by every senator and anyone who has bothered to watch. But that’s probably not the part that bothered Trump most.
Mr. Trump, who is fond of telling friends he is a “closer,” became more involved over the past few days, reaching out to a few reluctant conservatives like Senators Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, who emerged from an Oval Office meeting on Monday saying he was more optimistic about getting to a yes.
Trump has devoted a whole “few days” to health care. Just as he was willing to arm twist in the final week of House negotiations. So he found accusations that he was less than completely on top of the situation insulting.
But … remember that part about how Republican Senators have actually met Donald Trump? They’ve been behind the scenes. Watched him without a script.
… over the past few weeks, the Senate Republican leadership has made it known that it would much rather negotiate with Mr. Pence than a president whose candidacy many did not even take seriously during the 2016 primaries. And some of the White House’s efforts have clearly been counterproductive.
And there’s another factor. A big one. Donald Trump’s reaction to anyone not falling for an initial arm twist is twist harder. It’s the beginning and end of his brilliant strategy. One of the things that Trump did in those few days where he noticed the Senate negotiation … may be the biggest reason Republicans weren’t able to strike a deal.
Over the weekend, Mr. McConnell made clear his unhappiness to the White House after a “super PAC” aligned with Mr. Trump started an ad campaign against Senator Dean Heller, Republican of Nevada, after he said last week that he opposed the health care bill. …
Mr. McConnell, who has been toiling for weeks, mostly in private, to put together a measure that would satisfy hard-liners and moderates, told Mr. Priebus in his call that the assault by the group, America First, not only jeopardized the bill’s prospects but also imperiled Mr. Heller’s already difficult path to re-election.
Mitch McConnell’s real life Machiavellian maneuvers in which he twisted every Senate rule and used every subtlety of his turtle powers to bring the health care bill within a vote or two of passage … was thwarted by the intrusion of a bumbling television blowhard whose only idea for getting something done starts with threats. The funny thing is that Donald Trump is the hero of this piece. At least for now, he saved the American public from the costs, pain, and literal deaths that would come with the Republican healthcare bill … by being really, really terrible.
The move against Mr. Heller had the blessing of the White House, according to an official with America First, because Mr. Trump’s allies were furious that the senator would side with Nevada’s governor, Brian Sandoval, a Republican who accepted the Medicaid expansion under the health law and opposes the Republican overhaul, in criticizing the bill.
Fire them, Donald. Fire them all. Just point around the room next time and use your signature line. It’ll work. Trust me.