Let’s dispense with the sanctimony and admit it: Most of us really enjoy piling on. I know I do. There are few things more exhilarating than participating in mass malice. Rarely do we get such an obvious opportunity for schadenfreude than the Trump-Ryan health care debacle. Maybe Donald Trump should have his ghostwriter create a new book: “The Thwart of the Deal.”
And while we are being brutally honest (or is it honestly brutal?), let’s acknowledge that such cheap shots like that are the best shots. They’re certainly no cheaper than all the promises Trump made while campaigning — like his repeated pledge to dismantle Obamacare “first thing.” He denies saying that, but he did. It was a regular dose of the snake oil he sold, lapped up by millions of rubes who elected him president. He obviously was pandering to those right-wingers who still foam at the mouth at anything Obama.
In office, Trump realized how serpentine the issue is, exclaiming last month that “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Well, I don’t know how to break it to you Mr. President, but a lot of people knew. It’s just that some demagogues carelessly peddle the idea that they have simple solutions to impossibly complex problems.
That also would explain why Trump and his merry gang of misfits so badly botched their anti-Muslim immigration blockade. They haven’t even gotten to walling off Mexico yet.
Instead of “Make America Great Again,” Donald Trump’s motto should be: “Used to be I couldn’t spell ‘president.’ Now I are one.” He’s like that country bumpkin Gomer Pyle (do a web search, kiddies) who would be awestruck and exclaim “Gawwww-leeeee.” Except Gomer Trump is a city bumpkin who tries to cover up his ineptitude with nastiness, usually unleashed on Twitter.
Actually, in the case of his humiliation in the House, Trump switched tactics, trying out a humble act, telling a Washington Post reporter, “We learned a lot.” What he should have learned is that making the wheels turn in our ridiculously convoluted government is not for know-it-all rookies. Negotiating policy is much tougher than any real estate deal. For starters, in real estate all sides are united in their greed for money. Members of Congress are motivated by principle: staying in office. It is why so many who are successful in private enterprise are humbled when they dabble in public service.
While their word is law in the corporate world, that’s not how it works in government. In business, all they have to do is write checks. In this democracy, there are checks and balances. It’s easy to understand why Donald Trump likes executive orders. There is no one to get in the way, certainly not the gang of sycophants around him, who save their greatest treachery for each other.
That is not to say that all the players are inexperienced. Paul Ryan didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. After all, he was the author of the health care plan that his GOP colleagues shredded. He’s been in Congress since 1999, and before that was an aide to various Washington figures, ever-flattering them to move ever-upward. He was Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential candidate in 2012 and managed to slip-slide for or against Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, depending on how the ill wind was blowing. He presents himself as the principled political professional.
Health care has knocked him off his high horse. He had the good sense to admit that this was “a setback, no two ways about it.” He can count on the gnat-sized memory of the American people to forget about this setback as he shifts to some other way to further his ambitions. Or at least to stay out of the way when everybody is piling on Donald Trump for some other amateur mistake.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.