Bob Franken


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Donald Trump’s enemies are in agony after Bob Mueller’s probe did not uncover sufficient evidence that candidate Trump and his people had colluded with the Russians. Meanwhile, he and his supporters are in a vengeful bliss.
But not so fast: There is ample evidence of collusion, all right — of President Trump colluding with the Democrats. That could be the explanation for what possessed the Trump Department of Justice to file a legal brief in support of doing away entirely with Obamacare.
Actually, what Justice did — over the reported objections of Attorney General William Barr (you remember him: the guy who glossed over the Mueller report) — was to abandon its position defending the Affordable Care Act from elimination before an appeals court considering just that. If that position prevailed, it would be “Goodbye, ACA,” along with its hugely popular protection for patients with pre-existing conditions.
Can you believe it? Obamacare has gotten popular over the years. So the Republicans had gotten pummeled in the midterm election over their longstanding efforts to “repeal and replace” it. Their years of attempting to sabotage what is now accepted as a better-than-nothing health care system had caught up with them.

Never mind that. There are those in the GOP who just can’t let go of their hostility to anything Obama. Those die-hards were able to sway the president. Suddenly Trump, who was riding high after Mueller apparently wasn’t able to prove a case against him, let his accusers off the hook in mid-squirm with his health care legal action. In doing so, he violated a political commandment: Thou shalt never step on thine own message. He and his anti-Obamacare zealots stepped in something with their decision to gut a structure that, if it went away, could leave an additional 28 million Americans without insurance and, in so many cases, unable to afford lifesaving treatment.
Suddenly, the Republicans were playing defense. Some of those in the president’s own GOP actually criticized the Justice Department decision. Others simply went into hiding or were insisting that they’d come up with a health care program for the country that was even better. Trump himself proclaimed that “The Republican Party will become the party of health care!”
If you think you’ve heard that kind of promise before from the Grand Old Party’s leaders, it is because their efforts to come up with an adequate replacement for Obamacare have been a grand old flop. Democrats, who were being stomped because of the Mueller decision, were able to do a little stomping of their own. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in full “I told you so” mode when she addressed a private meeting of House Democrats: “We must, with all that is going on, stay focused on our purpose ‘For the People’ — lower health care costs, bigger paychecks and cleaner government.”
Pelosi has been the one to argue that the Democrats she leads, particularly the ones on the left wing, should tread very cautiously when they promise to remove Trump from office. The impeachment passion has been subdued by the independent counsel’s lack of proven “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” or even low ones, at least as far as we know.
Pelosi has a Plan B, and it’s a revolutionary one: How about running on the issues? Now that all the investigations her party was planning could well be considered flogging a dead horse, why not focus on the rear end of the horse, and bash the administration on substance; what policies Trump’s put in place or proposed. It’s not that his outlandish personal characteristics are off-limits, nor his hateful demagoguery, but there are genuine issues to argue about, like taxes, immigration and, yes, health care.
For the moment, it appears Donald Trump will be running for a second term; he’ll still be around. The Democrats will have to beat him, if they can avoid their normal tendency to beat themselves by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. What they can count on is Donald Trump getting so wound up that he cannot resist doing just that to himself.

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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