The idea that Trump would, or will, ever preside over a functioning strategic messaging operation is a corollary of the long sought after "presidential pivot." For establishment politicians, consultants and pundits, this desire to see Trump conform, even cosmetically, to past norms is their white whale -- as longed-for as it is painfully elusive.
But success -- defined here and now as advocating for and eventually enacting his political agenda -- in his new job requires a different set of muscles. It also demands the trust, loyalty and competence of subordinates. Not because they are good people (or that lacking any or all of the above suggests they are not), but for the simple purpose of maximizing the President's power -- an awesome tool, for better or worse, when exerted in conditionally optimal settings.
The story of the GOP's failure to repeal (and/or replace) Obamacare this spring and summer will spawn, if not books, then chapters in larger volumes about a very weird time in American political life.
When those histories are written, the court drama inside the West Wing will not exist in a separate sphere from the collisions on Capitol Hill. Neither is a "distraction" -- as so many armchair critics have declared -- from the other. They are very much of a piece.
The White House, by contrast, never presented to the public or Washington a compellingly coherent argument for why its plan would improve health care in the US, or the lives of those who might be effected by the new legislation. "Improve" is, of course, a subjective term. And what makes one person's life better might, if not in commensurate terms, make another's less so.
But that's the challenge of politics. Some congressional Republicans sought to make the sale, promising better "access" to coverage. House Speaker Paul Ryan rolled up his sleeves and walked reporters through a PowerPoint presentation. There was talk of buckets (three of them) to illustrate some members' desired process. It didn't quite sing, but they at least tried to play.
Over the 10 days that followed Lee and Moran's twin tweets, as pressure mounted again on Republicans to return to the table, Trump's cajoling, on social media and in person, registered either as strident -- certainly not persuasive -- or, well, not at all. The President also spent long stretches during that time seeking to goad his attorney general into resigning, complaining about the "fake news" and, in a confounding turn just 24 hours before "skinny repeal" came up for its ill-fated vote, tweeting an (unofficial) announcement that "the United States Government will not accept or allow... Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."
None of it -- not the attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the jarring message to transgender members of the armed forces, nor the capricious medium through which they arrived -- seemed intended as a distraction from the health care fight. They were sound, fury,