The Washington Post is reporting that “The White House” is putting pressure on Republican governors to endorse the Senate’s monstrous health care bill. The “White House” in this case consists of Veep Mike Pence, HHS secretary Tom Price, and Seema Verma, also a Trump appointee, who is administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The alleged POTUS is not part of this effort.
Granted, Trump has been in Paris busily engaged in weird handshakes …
… and saying inappropriate things to Brigitte Macron. And this weekend he is busy attending the U.S. Women’s Open golf tournament in Bedminster, NJ. Priorities, people. But it should be noted that otherwise he hasn’t really been much engaged in anything lately, other than tweeting. Many have noted that his schedule often is weirdly empty. Many others have commented that he doesn’t do many things presidents normally do.
The presidentÂ did engage personally on health care earlier in the year, courtingÂ groups of lawmakers in the Oval OfficeÂ and making rounds of calls, eventually claiming partial credit when a version of the legislation passed the House. ButÂ those overtures to reticent lawmakers over Diet Cokes have largely faded as Senate Republicans have labored to pass their version of the bill, long the partyâ€™s signature pledge to its base.
Trump, who has ventured west of the Mississippi River only once as president, has barely mentionedÂ health care on his few stops outside Washington and his golf properties in Florida and New Jersey. He has done littleÂ beyond tweetingÂ to rally his base in support of theÂ planÂ and has notÂ stepped foot in the state of a Republican lawmaker who might be needed to pass the bill in the Senate.
At his most recent political rally â€” in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in late June â€” he made just a few scattered references to the issue.
â€œI think health careâ€™s going to happen,â€ Trump said. â€œYouâ€™re going to have a lot of exciting things over the next few months.â€
He was engaged with the House health care bill, but it seems once that passed the House he lost interest in what was going on in Congress. He’s leaving the work of pushing an agenda through Congress to Mike Pence and other underlings.
Even when he was engaged, he really wasn’t. For example, several weeks ago he claimed that his tax bill was moving through Congress, when it hadn’t been written yet. It still hasn’t, btw.
James Downie writes in WaPo that “in both making and executing laws, passiveness to the point of abdication is a growing hallmark of Trumpâ€™s presidency.”
With the Senate trying again, the president has shrunk back even further. In an interview withÂ The 700 Clubâ€™s Pat RobertsonÂ on Wednesday, Trump showed us how he views his role in the health-care debate. â€œI am sitting in the Oval Office with a pen in hand,â€ he said, â€œwaiting for our senators to give it to me.â€Â Twice more he cast himself as a passive actor: â€œNow we have a President thatâ€™s waiting to sign it. â€¦Â Iâ€™m sitting waiting for that bill to come to my desk.â€Â Even as he acknowledges that â€œit would be very badâ€ if Senate Republicans fail, he suggests there is no role for him inÂ getting a bill passed.
The president has been similarly uninvolved on foreign policy. Where past presidents â€” of both partiesÂ â€” haveÂ reserved final say-so over troop levels in war, Trump has delegated that tremendous responsibility, givingÂ Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authority over the size of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. This comes after six months with no new strategy for the Afghan war â€” a conflict the United States has been in for more than 15 years. Also missing isÂ a coherent policy for the Middle East, China or for pretty much any other part of the world.
Trumpâ€™s apathy is also shown in the slow pace of executive-branch appointments. Of the 564 positions that require Senate confirmation, 374 still have no nominee. Many secretaries and their departmentsÂ have been stuck waiting for key positions to be filled. The inertia is so total that it can only have come from the very top. And while doing less may ease the burden on Trumpâ€™s shoulders, the resulting sluggishness hurts the rest of us.
Meanwhile, the steady drip of unforced errors and self-made scandals has dominated political coverage, which actually isn’t helping Republicans get their agenda passed in spite of the it’s-all-a-diversion theory.
Trump himself is probably unaware that he’s not really doing his job, because he’s never had a job before. One suspects that whatever Â his initial engagement, now that the novelty has worn off he’s likely to become even more detached from the job, which probably isn’t nearly as gratifying as he thought it would be.
So when do Congressional Republicans decide the guy is more trouble than he’s worth? It hasn’t happened yet, and I don’t expect it to happen this year. But if the scandals become more incriminating and Trump becomes even less of an asset, they may very well become willing to cut him loose. Pence is the guy they really want to work with, after all.