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On health care, Trump picks the wrong fight at the wrong time

Yes, Trump is trying to gaslight the country on health care, but with two weeks remaining until Election Day, it's a fight Democrats are eager to have.
Image: President Trump Holds Make America Great Again Rally In Pennsylvania
WILKES BARRE, PA - AUGUST 02: President Donald J. Trump speaks to a large crowd on August 2, 2018 at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes Barre,...

It was earlier this month that Donald Trump first tried to argue that he's further to the left than Democrats on key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. It's Republicans, the president said at a campaign rally, who will always protect Americans with pre-existing conditions. We're going to take care of them. Some of the Democrats have been talking about ending pre-existing conditions."

In context, I assume the president meant that Democrats would end the protections, not the conditions. Either way, Trump was brazenly lying about both. In reality, Republicans continue to fight to gut the ACA's protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, and a total number of zero Democratic officials "have been talking about" scaling back the existing Obamacare safeguards.

And yet, there was the president again this morning, declaring via Twitter:

"Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not! Vote Republican."

There's no way around this: Trump is just straight up trying to gaslight the country.

This is not a fight in which a complex truth lurks in some gray area in between partisan talking points. Republicans have not only fought for years to strip Americans with pre-existing conditions of their protections, they're also -- right now -- trying to get the courts to gut these protections, too.

What's more, it was literally just two days ago when the Trump administration announced a new policy through the Department of Health and Human Services that would threaten the position of Americans with pre-existing conditions.

But in this case, the significance of the president's shameless lying extends beyond just a simple fact-check. There's also a political salience to all of this.

MSNBC's Chris Hayes said this morning, "I actually think the president lying (again) about pre-existing conditions is a gift for Democratic candidates because it puts the issue front and center."

I'm very much inclined to agree. Over the last several days, Trump has invested considerable energy into shining a spotlight on immigration. The strategy has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer: the president wants Americans to be afraid, and so he's going out of his way to get people talking about -- in Trump's vision -- scary brown criminals trying to invade the United States.

The expectation is that the rest of the political world will simply follow along, either endorsing or refuting Trump's rhetoric, thereby keeping the spotlight on the issue he believes benefits his party.

But this morning, it was the easily distracted president who changed the subject, renewing the debate Democrats are eager to have.

After all, if the midterm elections are going to be about which party is sincere about championing protections for those with pre-existing conditions, Republicans are likely to have a rough year.