Donald Trump delivered some brief remarks before the start of a cabinet meeting yesterday, and seemed especially animated about the Affordable Care Act. "Obamacare is finished. It's dead. It's gone," the president said, sounding a bit like a mob boss. "It's no longer -- you shouldn't even mention. It's gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore."
About a minute later, in reference to rising premiums, Trump added, "This is an Obamacare mess."
As a simple matter of logic, both statements can't be true. If the ACA no longer exists, it can't be the source of ongoing troubles in the health care sector. Either there is "such a thing" as the Affordable Care Act or there isn't, and the president probably ought to pick one.
But Trump's confusion isn't just creating contradictions. By taking a series of steps to sabotage the nation's system -- including last week's decision to scrap cost-sharing-reduction payments -- the president is directly responsible for pushing higher costs onto many American consumers. Trump nevertheless added yesterday that everything is going according to plan.
"In my opinion, what's happening is, as we meet -- Republicans are meeting with Democrats because of what I did with the CSR, because I cut off the gravy train. If I didn't cut the CSRs, they wouldn't be meeting. They'd be having lunch and enjoying themselves, all right?"
Actually, no. It's all wrong, not all right.
Especially when it comes to the health care debate, Trump has struggled badly to keep up with the basics of current events, so let's give the president a hand. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have been meeting for a month and a half, trying to work out a bipartisan deal to extend cost-sharing-reduction payments. Their efforts are all the more important
Trump now wants everyone to thank him for those discussions -- he literally said the senators "wouldn't be meeting" were it not for his sabotage efforts -- but that's bonkers. Not only do the bipartisan talks pre-date the president's gambit by several weeks, but the White House said last week that Trump is opposed to the compromise measure that he's now bragging about.
Adding insult to injury, the Alexander-Murray talks are an effort to clean up the mess Trump himself made. A Democratic Senate aide told Slate's Jim Newell, "It's like starting a fire and taking credit for the firefighters' work."
As for why the arsonist in the Oval Office is engaged in this ridiculous charade, there's no great mystery here: Trump is desperate for some kind of accomplishment. If Congress takes steps to put out the fire the president himself created, Trump will claim credit, presenting it as a policy breakthrough that never would've happened were it not for his own efforts to punish American consumers.