Repeal and replace – DOA

 Paul Ryan, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, on Jan. 3 of this year. “Paulie PowerPoint” is on the ropes after leading the repeal and replace fiasco. Photograph courtesy U.S. Congress

Paul Ryan, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, on Jan. 3 of this year. “Paulie PowerPoint” is on the ropes after leading the repeal and replace fiasco. Photograph courtesy U.S. Congress

Anyone who saw the furious recent town halls between the Republicans and their constituents knew that the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as Obamacare – would explode in the faces of the Repubs. The rushed proposal spearheaded by Ayn Rand-reading House Speaker Paulie “PowerPoint Presentation” Ryan would’ve deprived 24 million people of health care, according to the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office. But that was not Draconian enough for the Repubs’ Freedom Caucus (alias the Tea Party 1.5), which is its own little world of “no.”

Enter Strongman-in-Chief President Trumpet, who, along with Paulie PowerPoint, informed the No, No Nanettes that it was repeal and replace or live with Obamacare “for the foreseeable future.” (This reminds me of New York magazine’s snarky remake of “Cats’” tagline “Now and Forever” back in the day – “Now and for the Foreseeable Future.”)

But we digress from our juicy story. The Freedom Caucus and its No Theater dug in, joining moderate Repubs and the Dems, formerly in disarray – who smelled a possible victory by negation – in opposing repeal and replace.

Whereupon Paulie PowerPoint had to pull the plug before a vote. (Ah, the irony for the pro-life party.)

Success, it is said, has many fathers, whereas failure is always an orphan. But I think the opposite is true. On the Sunday morning talk shows, the Repubs were falling all over themselves blaming one another. President Trumpet, who takes rejection about as well as a Roman emperor or a mafia don, spoke about now knowing where people’s loyalties lay. (Could he have been talking about minder-in-law Jared Kushner, who told Trumpet not to touch repeal and replace with a 10-foot pole, then promptly took off for Aspen with Ivanka and the kids?) No doubt Trumpet was referencing Caucus members, at whom he’s said to be livid. Say what you want about the Caucus-ers – and I have nothing good to say about these nihilists, who shouldn’t even be in government – but they proved that you can stand up to a bully if what you desire (in this case, gutting the government) Trumps your fear. And say this for Trumpet: He was apparently appalled at how deep the Caucus wished to cut health-care benefits, even as he caved to its demands.

Now there is division in the air and blood in the water. The Democrats have pounced on this, but they must be careful not to overplay their hand. (Filibustering Supremes nominee Neil Gorsuch, who has come across in the hearings as an overly earnest Jimmy Stewart, seems a misdirection of energies.)

There are plenty of people who oppose paying for the health care of others. But that is the way insurance works. You pay for the potential mistakes and misfortunes of others and hope that they don’t become yours. I don’t particularly want to pay for the whining, opioid addicted Trumpettes, but I can’t watch them being thrown to the wind. Health care for all is not only the compassionate thing to do. It’s the practical thing to do.

The other teachable moment here involves preparation. Unlike President Barack Obama, who developed the health care plan nicknamed after him over a year, Paulie PowerPoint and the Repubs rushed repeal and replace to Capitol Hill in the hopes of handing their rich backers a big tax break, for as Alexander Hamilton observed, “Power without revenue is a mere bauble.” That slipshod effort reminds me of what Anglo-American historian Simon Schama once told me when I asked him why the British lost North America.

“They never understood it,” he said. “And you can’t hold what you don’t understand.”

Trumpet didn’t understand Paulie PowerPoint’s bill. Paulie and the rest of the Repubs didn’t understand what their constituents wanted vis-à-vis health care, and the constituents didn’t understand that the Affordable Care Act that many are enjoying and Obamacare are one and the same.

No wonder everyone’s up in arms and the Repubs are on the ropes.