During a meeting with several high-level foreign diplomats, the question of the Trump administration’s unity kept coming up. How is it, said these diplomats, that the replacement and removal of Obamacare could not be achieved? Moreover, how does one explain the leaks that have repeatedly embarrassed the Trump organization?
Needless to say, politics is not what it once was, nor do we find experienced hands in the Trump team who have been involved in the active passage of bills. President Trump has yet to find his political footing. If he cannot do so, the next four years will be a debacle.
The first and most obvious question is how the Republican leadership could seem so unprepared for a show-down on Obamacare. In the Congressional elections of 2012 and 2014 and the presidential election of 2016, healthcare was invariably mentioned as a key issue that swung the vote to Republicans and denied elections to Democrats. If it is a baseline issue, how can you ignore the legislative content? Or the corollary: How could you ignore the development of consensus among Republican elected officials?
Whether this setback puts the entire Republican domestic agenda in jeopardy remains to be seen. But like many foreigners who assume a Trump victory and GOP control of both the House and Senate should make it relatively easy to legislate, the schism and consequent stasis are deeply unnerving. Perhaps President Trump should not have started his legislative agenda with healthcare.
That said, the leaks coming out of the White House are consistent and damaging. For example, it may have been legally acceptable for Mike Flynn, the designated national security director for Donald Trump, to have his conversation with the Russian ambassador tapped. But it was decidedly criminal to leak that information to members of the press. That Trump has not moved vigorously and relentlessly to track down those engaged in violations of the law is remarkable. Unless he reclaims the high ground by challenging the malfeasance, distrust will exist, finger pointing will be prevalent, and he will be victimized by continual attacks.
Surely the Trump team needs direction. It is unfair to describe present political conditions as a lost cause, because then you would have to argue there is no such thing as a gained cause. President Trump has much to gain, including enhancement on what has been gained. Yet his team requires a face-saving gesture such as tax reform. He must demonstrate to friends and foes alike that he is in charge and this can only be done by establishing trust.
If, as Chesterton noted, “there is a thought that stops thought,” it must be stopped. Leaks fall into that category. The president has an obligation to shape public sentiment if he wants to pass laws. With the public on his side, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.
President Trump can yield to the failure of repealing Obamacare, but he cannot yield to the obvious distrust in his administration. Take away the modern version of cognition and you are soon on the roadway to success.