There cannot be much doubt that President Trump would have preferred that Congress pass the Republican alternative to Obamacare. After all, repeal of Obamacare was a big-ticket item – if not the biggest – on his list of campaign promises.
And the failure to repeal laid bare the plain fact that Mr. Trump does not have effective control over his own party. Indeed, the bill had to be withdrawn because not enough Republicans in the House of Representatives were prepared to vote for it. The president in the end persuaded House Speaker Paul Ryan to throw in the towel.
But there is an interesting dimension to what happened that suggests it may yet provide the president with an important opportunity. According to Reuters and other news outlets, Mr. Trump is not being faulted by the public for his decision to withdraw the measure in anticipation of its being voted down; rather, House Speaker Ryan is being blamed for not being able to deliver House Republicans.
It almost seems that President Trump, the highly touted leader and dealmaker extraordinaire, is getting something of a pass despite his not being able to do what had to be done to get the deal through.
To be sure, this may be a matter of the new guy on the block being given some slack while the experienced congressional leaders are held to a more exacting standard. Whether or not that’s the case, President Trump for his part may have had in mind the news that Obamacare is now significantly more popular than it was during the presidential campaign. There was also much talk around Washington about widespread dissatisfaction with several important provisions of the proposed replacement legislation.
So rather than tie himself to a flawed bill, he went along with the measure being withdrawn by Mr. Ryan, which had the result of tying the failure to someone other than himself, despite the fact that the bill represented one of his signature campaign promises.
The bottom line is that the president is not being seen by an important part of his constituency as having reneged on his promise.
We’re reminded of the lyrics of the 1978 Kenny Rogers hit “The Gambler”:
You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run…
Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep…