At times, Trump showed a shrewd grasp of the some realities of politics, saying of entitlements, “once you get something, it’s awfully tough to take it away.”
But Trump’s follow-up comments to this insight shows just how difficult it is to discuss policy with the president, who has shown a fundamental misunderstanding of the legislation he’s been pushing.
In his interview, he says (addressing reporter Maggie Haberman): “What it does, Maggie, it means it gets tougher and tougher. As they get something, it gets tougher. Because politically, you can’t give it away. So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, ‘I want my insurance.’ It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.”
With a charitable reading, the comment looks confused. At worst, it’s nonsense. The president seems to be saying it costs $12 a year to insure a 21-year-old—or $1 per month. This is not what it costs to insure a 21-year-old. (There is no such health plan for that cheap.) What he’s referring to “doing a good job of” is also unclear.
Instead of focusing on the nuts and bolts policy, which betrays key campaign promises not to touch Medicare and Medicaid, Trump has focused on the politics. He has positioned himself firmly in the game of whipping mulish lawmakers who think the GOP’s repeal and replace bills aren’t aggressive enough in cuts or would result in taking healthcare away from tens of millions of people.
Trump is making deals, but he is not looking at the terms.