This week, courtesy of Twitter, we were offered a glimpse of why more Americans chose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump as the appropriate person to be president of the United States.
On Monday night, Clinton (whose margin, by the way, was 2.9 million votes) tweeted up a storm. “This hasn’t gotten enough attn,” she wrote in her opener. “For the first time, Congress missed the deadline to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”
It was the first of seven tweets in which she expressed a proper outrage over the failure of the House and Senate to renew a valuable piece of the government’s health care safety net that provides insurance to some 9 million Americans under the age of 18.
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The next morning, Trump issued a tweet of his own: “The Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with!”
Quite a contrast, don’t you think? On the one side is Clinton using the attention she commands on behalf of a group that enjoys little political influence or lobbying power. On the other is a self-involved bully who spends much of his time belittling those who dare oppose him. Clinton was fighting for children and teenagers. Trump was acting like one.
It’s true that about two hours before he sent out his missive attacking the Tennessee Republican who fears Trump might start World War III, the petulant president did post a tweet on health care: “Since Congress can’t get its act together on HealthCare, I will be using the power of the pen to give great HealthCare to many people – FAST.”
Naturally, Trump shucked off responsibility for not delivering on his promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with “something great.” It’s all Congress’ fault.
As to substance, he was referring to an executive order that aides say he’ll issue this week to undo some of the Affordable Care Act’s regulations and permit the sale of cheap, skimpy, short-term insurance plans likely to appeal most to the healthiest people.
Trump’s move would undercut existing patient protections and likely further destabilize health care markets he has already thrown into chaos with his stealthy efforts to sabotage Obamacare.
Earlier this week, The New York Times’ Robert Pear reported the administration’s 41 percent reduction in funds for the program that helps consumers pick plans through the ACA. The new Obamacare enrollment period begins on Nov. 1, and as Pear wrote, “The cuts come at a time of turmoil in insurance markets, when more consumers than ever may need help navigating the health care system.”
If the Clinton-Trump contrast highlights Trump’s pettiness, the striking difference in their approach to health care reminds us that the various circuses he is orchestrating – around Corker, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and kneeling at NFL games – are also distracting us from the profound day-to-day harm he and Congress are inflicting.
The two-decades-old Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was a genuine bipartisan achievement, championed by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy. One reason its renewal has been stalled is House Republicans’ insistence on tying another five years of CHIP funding to cuts and tweaks in Medicaid, Medicare and the ACA.
As the fights over Obamacare have shown, many in the GOP seem willing to use any opportunity available to cut funding for health coverage. If you wonder why compromise is so hard to come by these days, notice that even long-standing cross-party efforts are encountering resistance and delays from the ideologues on the right.
In the meantime, Trump is doing all he can to reverse the victory of Obamacare supporters who saved the program this summer and again in the fall. Here again, bipartisanship is the loser. Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly favor making Obamacare better rather than repealing it. Democrats are game for this. But Trump still won’t go there – although he occasionally claims to be ready to work with “Chuck” (that would be Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer) on alternatives to scrapping the law.
In fact, Trump cares and thinks little about policy, and the big news this week may be that the Washington consensus is finally coming around to the obvious: that Trump is utterly unfit to be president, which is what a plurality of the voters thought in the first place. That’s all very nice, but he’s still there, and we can’t lose track of all the damage he can unleash.
E.J. Dionne’s email address is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @EJDionne.