Trump picks a fight over pre-existing conditions he cannot win

Trump seems eager to have a discussion over his record on protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions. He won't like where this discussion ends up.
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By Steve Benen

Donald Trump stopped by Capitol Hill yesterday to speak with Senate Republicans, and after the private gathering, the president stopped to tell reporters how impressed he is with his own record. He focused specific attention on "all of the things we've done on health care," including "pre-existing conditions."

The president didn't elaborate on what exactly he thinks he's done to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, but he made the boast anyway, adding no details. Yesterday, Trump brought this up again, during an unrelated White House event.

"[M]y administration will always protect Medicare and Social Security -- and, by the way, pre-existing conditions.... We'll always protect you on pre-existing conditions, much more so than the Democrats.... We're always working on pre-existing conditions and saving your pre-existing conditions. And as long as I'm president, you'll always be protected on pre-existing conditions."

The idea that Team Trump "will always protect Medicare and Social Security," sounds nice, though it's belied by the latest White House budget plan, unveiled just a few months ago, which proposed cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

But putting that aside, the president seemed almost preoccupied with pre-existing conditions, to the point that his rhetoric was almost incoherent. The administration is "always working on pre-existing conditions"? I don't know what that means. Trump is "saving your pre-existing conditions"? This is practically gibberish.

It's entirely possible, if not likely, that the president has seen polling showing most Americans taking the issue very seriously, and with an election coming up, he's afraid of being seen on the wrong side of the fight. Whether Trump understands the issue at even the most rudimentary level is not at all clear.

But questions about presidential ignorance not withstanding, Trump is already on the wrong side of the issue, and his assurances to the contrary are demonstrable lies.

As regular readers know, the truth is politically inconvenient, but stubbornly inflexible: the president fought to strip Americans with pre-existing conditions of their current protections -- those established by the Democrats' Affordable Care Act -- through a series of misguided and far-right repeal-and-replace proposals he couldn't get through a Congress led by his own party.

Making matters worse, Trump's efforts are ongoing: the White House is helping champion a federal lawsuit, which is currently pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, which would strip protections from Americans with pre-existing conditions.

These are basic, uncontested facts, which the president expects the public not to notice.