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Trump's curious boast: he 'decided not to' kill the ACA

For two years, Trump said the ACA was "dead." "Gone." "Absolutely dead." "Finished." A "dead carcass." Evidently, he's changed his mind.
A family practice provider uses a stethoscope to examine a patient in an exam room. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)
A family practice provider uses a stethoscope to examine a patient in an exam room.

In his "Meet the Press" interview that aired on Sunday, Donald Trump turned his attention to health care, telling NBC News' Chuck Todd he's done a "great" job implementing the Affordable Care Act. The host reminded the president, "You're still trying to kill it."

Trump replied, "No, no."

In reality, whether the Republican knows this or not, it was just last month that the Trump administration implored a federal appeals court to tear down the health care reform law in its entirety, stripping its benefits from tens of millions of Americans.

Trump added, "I am in favor of pre-existing conditions" -- presumably he meant he supported protections for those with pre-existing conditions -- despite his support for litigation that would destroy the ACA's existing benefits, including protections for those with pre-existing conditions. (The president went on to say the lawsuit "has nothing to do with it," which didn't make any sense at all.)

It led to one of the more curious boasts of Trump's tenure:

"[T]he reason Obamacare continues is my decision.... I could have managed Obamacare so it would have failed or I could have managed it the way we did so it's as good as it can be. [...]"I had a decision to make. I could have politically killed Obamacare. I decided not to do it."

As president, Trump first declared the death of the Affordable Care Act on March 17, 2017. "I also want people to know that Obamacare is dead," he said. "It's a dead health care plan. It's not even a health care plan.... Obamacare is not an alternative. It's not there. It's dead. It's dead. " He hadn't quite been in office for two months.

The Republican proceeded to repeat the claim obsessively for months, telling anyone who'd listen that the health care reform law is "dead." "Gone." "Absolutely dead." "Finished." A "dead carcass."

And yet, Trump apparently now believes the exact opposite. Indeed, on "Meet the Press," he suggested he deserves some kind of credit for "deciding" not to kill the health care law.

Part of the problem with the boast is the obvious contradiction: when a president spends two years telling the world that his country's reform law is dead, it's a bit jarring when that same president quietly flips his talking points, expecting everyone to just play along.

The other area of concern, though, is the brazen lying. To hear Trump tell it, he "could have" tried to kill the ACA, but he chose a more responsible course. That's a tough sell for those of us who know that this White House has gone to extraordinary lengths to sabotage the health care system, only to fail to kill its target.

I've heard jokes for years that Trump would eventually present himself as the savior of Obamacare, but I never really believed them. I stand corrected.