f”If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.”
That was W. C. Fields’ advice, but there are romantics. Robert Kennedy’s favorite song was The Impossible Dream from the 1964 Broadway musical Man of La Mancha – “To dream the impossible dream / To fight the unbeatable foe / To bear with unbearable sorrow / To run where the brave dare not go” – and so on and so forth.
Go ahead. Follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far – but you still lose. Some things are hopeless. Don Quixote died in prison. Robert Kennedy was assassinated here in Los Angeles – but Brian Stokes Mitchell performed that song at Ted Kennedy’s memorial service in 2009 – so there are political romantics. It must run in families.
There are also those who don’t know when to quit. There are political pragmatists who know when to settle for what you can get and live to fight another day – Ronald Reagan saying that getting eighty percent of what he wanted was better than getting nothing, and Barack Obama muttering about how the perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good (and pissing off a lot of liberals) – but Donald Trump isn’t a political pragmatist. He’s also not a political romantic. He’s just a sore loser:
President Trump exhorted lawmakers Wednesday to resurrect the failed Republican plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, injecting fresh turmoil into an issue that had appeared settled the day before, when Senate leaders announced they did not have the votes to pass their bill.
Trump’s remarks, at a lunch with 49 Republican senators, prompted some of them to reopen the possibility of trying to vote on the sweeping legislation they abandoned earlier this week. But there was no new evidence that the bill could pass.
President Trump did give a rip-roaring speech – Republicans were so close to a wonderful bill that would fix everything and cover everyone and cost next to nothing – so it was time to just clean up the details – which of course was nonsense, so there were threats:
At the lunch, the president threatened electoral consequences for senators who oppose him, suggesting that Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) could lose his reelection bid next year if he does not back the effort. The president also invited conservative opposition against anyone else who stands in the way.
“Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America that you’re fine with Obamacare,” Trump said.
Such people would be destroyed by his tweetstorms, so they had to put up or shut up:
After the collapse of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which would have repealed and replaced key portions of the Affordable Care Act, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday announced plans for a vote on pure repeal instead, a move that seemed designed to either allow – or force – lawmakers to record a vote on what has been the GOP’s top campaign promise of the past seven years.
That was it. Go on record. But there was a new problem with that:
A repeal-only approach – which also lacks the votes to pass – would increase the number of people without health coverage by 17 million next year and by 32 million at the end of a decade, according to a fresh analysis released Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office.
They would have to go on record denying health coverage to thirty-two million Americans, the highest number yet, but of course that wouldn’t be Trump’s fault:
Trump’s remarks introduced a new level of chaos into the GOP, potentially setting up Senate Republicans to take the blame from angry conservatives for failing to fulfill a long-standing GOP vow.
And he wasn’t helping at all:
Trump claimed at the lunch that “we’re very close” to passing a repeal-and-replace bill. It was the latest sign of the disconnect between the president and the Senate. It also came a day after Trump tweeted “let ObamaCare fail” – and two days after he called for a repeal-only bill.
No one knows what the hell Trump wants:
The White House appeared determined to keep trying for something. Vice President Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services director Seema Verma met with roughly two dozen GOP senators for nearly three hours on Capitol Hill on Wednesday evening. The meeting was arranged by the White House to help persuade wavering senators to back the repeal-and-replace bill, according to people familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private planning.
Following the meeting, several senators described the talks as productive, but none would name specific areas of progress or new agreement that resulted from the gathering.
This is that impossible dream, impossible because no one knows what the dream really is, but the threats are real enough:
Seated directly to Trump’s right at Wednesday’s lunch was Heller, who is up for reelection in 2018 in a state Democrat Hillary Clinton won.
“Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?” Trump asked, Heller smiling at his side. “Okay – and I think the people of your state, which I know very well, I think they’re going to appreciate what you hopefully will do.”
After he returned to the Capitol, Heller sized it up this way: “That’s just President Trump being President Trump.”
Tensions have been evident for a while. After Heller came out against an earlier version of the Senate bill, a conservative organization aligned with Trump vowed to launch an expensive ad campaign against him, angering and shocking many mainstream GOP allies of the senator. Later, the group backed off.
Now, senators are not sure what they will be voting on in the coming days – pure repeal or repeal and replace.
And they have other fears:
Even GOP senators who oppose the repeal efforts worry about being blamed for failing to act on health care. A recent Gallup poll found that 70 percent of GOP respondents said they support repealing and replacing Obamacare.
Conservative activists are already aggressively targeting centrist Republicans who have opposed the efforts. On Wednesday, a pair of influential conservative groups launched an “Obamacare Repeal Traitors” website attacking Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.).
“They campaigned on REPEAL,” says the website, which the Club for Growth and Tea Party Patriots launched. But now, it says, “they are betraying their constituents by joining with Democrats to defeat Obamacare Repeal efforts!”
The whole thing was unpleasant:
At the lunch, Trump said, “People should not leave town unless we have a health insurance plan, unless we give our people great health care,” meaning that recess plans should be put off if a deal isn’t reached. Marc Short, the White House’s legislative director, told reporters afterward that “this is not something that we can walk away from.”
Trump, as he has done numerous times in recent weeks, reminded the lawmakers that Republicans campaigned against the Affordable Care Act for years and that their supporters are counting on them to make good on their promises.
“I’m ready to act,” Trump said. “I have my pen in hand. I’m sitting in that office. I have pen in hand. You’ve never had that before. For seven years, you’ve had the easy route — we repeal, we replace, but he [Obama] never signs it. I’m signing it. So it’s a little different.”
This is their problem, not his, and David Weigel has more:
As they scramble to resurrect the Senate GOP’s last chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act, conservative activists and media figures have settled on a message that could fall flat: Do it for President Trump. From Tuesday night through the announcement of yet another Republican meeting on their repeal bills, pundits and outside groups cast senators as “traitors” if they did not deliver a victory for the president.
“Republicans don’t really want this to be repealed and don’t really want Trump to win,” Rush Limbaugh told his listeners on Wednesday. “They never sell the plan.”
“These people are being true to their school, just not true to their party, and maybe not true to their country,” said “Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade, before asking a guest why Congress had “let Trump down.”
This was getting nasty:
On the right, the final repeal push has been framed as a rematch of Trump’s 2016 victory – a chance for Republicans to go with their president, or reveal themselves as sellouts. Coverage of the health-care fight on Fox News, which had occasionally vanished from prime time, returned Tuesday night in the form of attacks on congressional failure.
“Coming close doesn’t count,” Fox’s Sean Hannity said in his opening monologue. “You people in Congress – you are pampered. You are overpaid. You are spoiled.” After attacking members of Congress for access to “free parking at work” and “access to the congressional gyms,” the Fox News host, whose annual salary has been estimated at $29 million, informed viewers that members of Congress are paid “$174,000 a year, three times higher than the median household income.”
And there was more:
In the conservative media, Trump’s Wednesday speech at the White House was portrayed as the president trying to save Republicans from themselves. “If there’s virtue in the replacement bill, sing its praise,” Limbaugh said. “Well, Trump did in his speech today. Nobody else is. They’re all acting embarrassed of it.”
In fact, defenders of the legislation had spent plenty of time talking it up – and, like Trump, describing the ACA as a collapsing house. But conservative media showed little interest in the details of the bill as it was debated; it emerged again as a topic when it became a straightforward story of the president against the shirkers.
Perhaps it was the president against the shirkers, but there are political pragmatists who know when to settle for what they can get – a matter of acknowledging reality and moving on to what else might be possible to get done. Donald Trump isn’t one of those. He’s a sore loser. He holds grudges, and after he spent the day ripping into all those damned useless Republicans in the Senate, he sat down with three reporters from the New York Times and proved what a sore loser he really is:
President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”
In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’ decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.
So his own attorney general, who was with him early on and stuck with him through thick and thin, is a shirker too, as are others:
In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, the president also accused James B. Comey, the FBI director he fired in May, of trying to leverage a dossier of compromising material to keep his job.
That was blackmail, damn it:
Mr. Trump recalled that a little more than two weeks before his inauguration, Mr. Comey and other intelligence officials briefed him at Trump Tower on Russian meddling. Mr. Comey afterward pulled Mr. Trump aside and told him about a dossier that had been assembled by a former British spy filled with salacious allegations against the incoming president, including supposed sexual escapades in Moscow. The FBI has not corroborated the most sensational assertions in the dossier.
In the interview, Mr. Trump said he believed Mr. Comey told him about the dossier to implicitly make clear he had something to hold over the president. “In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there,” Mr. Trump said. As leverage? “Yeah, I think so,” Mr. Trump said. “In retrospect.”
In fact, everyone is out to get him:
Mr. Trump criticized both the acting FBI director who has been filling in since Mr. Comey’s dismissal and the deputy attorney general who recommended it. And he took on Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election.
Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller was running an office rife with conflicts of interest and warned investigators against delving into matters too far afield from Russia. Mr. Trump never said he would order the Justice Department to fire Mr. Mueller, nor would he outline circumstances under which he might do so. But he left open the possibility as he expressed deep grievance over an investigation that has taken a political toll in the six months since he took office.
Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line, if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it.
And there’s this:
Mr. Trump was also critical of Mr. Mueller, a former FBI director, reprising some of his past complaints that lawyers in his office contributed money to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. He noted that he actually interviewed Mr. Mueller to replace Mr. Comey just before his appointment as special counsel.
“He was up here and he wanted the job,” Mr. Trump said. After he was named special counsel, “I said, ‘What the hell is this all about?’ Talk about conflicts. But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”
The president also expressed discontent with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a former federal prosecutor from Baltimore. When Mr. Sessions recused himself, the president said he was irritated to learn where his deputy was from. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” he said of the predominantly Democratic city.
Everyone is out to get him, except for one guy:
Describing a newly disclosed informal conversation he had with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia during a dinner of world leaders in Germany this month, Mr. Trump said they talked for about 15 minutes, mostly about “pleasantries.” But Mr. Trump did say that they talked “about adoption.” Mr. Putin banned American adoptions of Russian children in 2012 after the United States enacted sanctions on Russians accused of human rights abuses, an issue that remains a sore point in relations with Moscow.
Mr. Trump acknowledged that it was “interesting” that adoptions came up since his son, Donald Trump Jr., said that was the topic of a meeting he had with several Russians with ties to the Kremlin during last year’s campaign. Even though emails show that the session had been set up to pass along incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, the president said he did not need such material from Russia about Mrs. Clinton last year because he already had more than enough.
Concede enough to Putin, drop a whole lot of sanctions, and Americans would again be able to adopt Russian babies – and then all Americans, even bleeding-heart liberals, would love him. He does love babies:
At one point, his daughter Ivanka arrived at the doorway with her daughter, Arabella, who ran to her grandfather and gave him a kiss. He greeted the 6-year-old girl as “baby,” then urged her to show the reporters her ability to speak Chinese. She obliged.
That was cute, but beside the point:
Mr. Trump left little doubt during the interview that the Russia investigation remained a sore point. His pique at Mr. Sessions, in particular, seemed fresh even months after the attorney general’s recusal. Mr. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump’s candidacy and was rewarded with a key cabinet slot, but has been more distant from the president lately.
“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” he added. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair – and that’s a mild word – to the president.”
That’s first-class whining from a sore loser, and Kevin Drum is amazed:
Trump apparently thinks that blocking embarrassing investigations is part of the attorney general’s job. If Sessions wasn’t willing to do that, “I would have picked somebody else.” Does Trump have any idea what he’s admitting here?
And, in retrospect, he now thinks Comey was trying to blackmail him. This despite the fact that Mother Jones had written about the dossier weeks before and it was common knowledge that it was out there.
I’m not even sure what to say about this stuff anymore. Nothing matters, does it? Trump really could gun someone down in the Oval Office and Fox News would report that Trump had stopped a terrorist attack.
Heather Parton echoes that:
And, oh, by the way, today it was announced that we’re pulling our support for the rebels who are fighting against Assad, Russia’s ally in Syria.
I don’t know what to say anymore. He’s at war with the entire Justice Department and the Intelligence agencies and he seems to be threatening to fire anyone who crosses him.
Is this the new normal? Is this America?
Perhaps it is, but Americans may be able to able to adopt Russian babies again, if Trump keeps this up:
President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.
The program was a central plank of a policy begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to step aside, but even its backers have questioned its efficacy since Russia deployed forces in Syria two years later.
Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgment of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power.
Just three months ago, after the United States accused Assad of using chemical weapons, Trump launched retaliatory airstrikes against a Syrian air base. At the time, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, said that “in no way do we see peace in that area with Assad at the head of the Syrian government.”
The mysterious one-on-one chat with Putin must have changed his mind, but that’s a worry:
Some current and former officials who support the program cast the move as a major concession.
“This is a momentous decision,” said a current official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a covert program. “Putin won in Syria.”
Some analysts said the decision to end the program was likely to empower more radical groups inside Syria and damage the credibility of the United States.
“We are falling into a Russian trap,” said Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, who focuses on the Syrian resistance. “We are making the moderate resistance more and more vulnerable. We are really cutting them off at the neck.”
No one was happy:
Even those who were skeptical about the program’s long-term value viewed it as a key bargaining chip that could be used to wring concessions from Moscow in negotiations over Syria’s future.
“People began thinking about ending the program, but it was not something you’d do for free,” said a former White House official. “To give the program away without getting anything in return would be foolish.”
Perhaps so, but that is exactly what Trump did, and this is a matter of knowing who your friends are:
The White House said Wednesday that President Donald Trump has declined an invitation to speak at the NAACP’s annual convention next week in Baltimore, leading the nation’s oldest civil rights organization to question the president’s commitment to his African American constituents.
“During his campaign, President Trump asked us ‘what do you have to lose?'” NAACP Board Chairman Leon Russell said. “We get the message loud and clear. The president’s decision today underscores the harsh fact: we have lost – we’ve lost the will of the current administration to listen to issues facing the black community.”
Leon Russell should know that was lost long ago:
Trump was the first GOP presidential nominee in years not to address the NAACP last year. Republican nominees John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 both addressed the NAACP convention before losing to Obama in the general elections.
What did Leon Russell expect? Donald Trump lost the black vote – pretty much all of it – and he’s a sore loser. The disloyal Senate Republicans just found that out – so did Jeff Sessions, and James Comey, and Robert Mueller, and Rod Rosenstein – and everyone else. There will be no acknowledging reality and moving on to what else might be possible to get done – a sore loser does other things. He hits back. And nothing gets done.
Is this America? It is now.