Two weeks ago today, Donald Trump sat down with Fox News' Chris Wallace in the White House Rose Garden, and the host asked about the president's ongoing efforts to destroy the Affordable Care Act, which would strip benefits from tens of millions of families. The president replied that he still intends to "replace" the ACA.
The host reminded Trump, "But you've been in office three and a half years, you don't have a plan." It was at this point that the president responded with an unexpected vow:
"Well, we haven't had. Excuse me. You heard me yesterday. We're signing a health care plan within two weeks, a full and complete health care plan that the Supreme Court decision on DACA gave me the right to do.... [T]he decision by the Supreme Court on DACA allows me to do things on immigration, on health care, on other things that we've never done before. And you're going to find it to be a very exciting two weeks."
In terms of the Supreme Court ruling, Trump was apparently referring to a bizarre legal theory that the justices, in their recent DACA ruling, effectively gave the president license to, as John Yoo put it, "violate the law." Or put another way, when Congress won't act on an issue, Trump now believes the high court's conservatives have empowered the White House to basically do as it pleases -- not only on immigration policy, but in practically every area.
That's a difficult proposition to take seriously, but let's save the details of that legal debate for another day. What I'm especially interested in right now is that "full and complete health care plan" that Trump promised he'd be "signing" by today.
Where is it? What's in it? At what time should we expect this "signing" to take place?
If pressed, I suspect the White House would point to the president's recent executive orders on prescription drug costs, but (a) these measures don't do nearly as much as Trump is claiming; and (b) no one would seriously describe some orders on the price of medication as a "full and complete health care plan."
It's certainly possible that the president will prove me wrong. There are still 13 hours left before his two-week deadline, and if Trump and his team have come up with a sweeping new health care plan, which he'll sign with pride today, I will gladly revisit this post.
But I'm reasonably certain that won't happen. What we appear to have instead is yet another example of an annoying pattern. Just six months into Trump's presidency, Bloomberg News made a terrific observation: the Republican had an unnerving habit of responding to every difficult question by saying the answer was "two weeks" away. At the heart of the line was a lazy political strategy: Trump hoped that people, over the course of 14 days, would simply forget what he'd promised.
Unfortunately, that habit never really went away.