Here’s a post-debate follow-up on Donald Trump the Shape Shifter: I’m surprised to hear anyone praising his performance after that debacle. He came off as a dick, and that’s really The Donald. I thought so before I heard that he suggested Megyn Kelly was menstruating that evening. Megan was tough, but please…. Trump is a loud-mouthed, offensive, and often incoherent bully.
Two Trump moments that I thought were amazing were his exchange with Brett Baier about political donations and his dust-up with Rand Paul over a single-payer health care system.
On donations, Trump seemed to take satisfaction in the fact that Hillary Clinton “had no choice” but to attend his wedding after he gave to her Senate campaign. He then made the following statement, which made me laugh:
“I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people. Before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me. And that’s a broken system.“
Should I love him or hate him for that statement? He admits with no shame that he participates in crony capitalism, and he realizes that it’s corrupt. Andrew Popkin at Vox has a good analysis:
“Something Trump identifies that doesn’t always get mentioned is the way transactional politics transcend partisanship and ideology. Trump gave to Democrats and he gave to Republicans. He didn’t care what they believed. He cared what they could do for him. He wasn’t supporting them — he was buying them, and that’s completely different.“
It’s convenient for Trump to brag that he doesn’t need donations from others when campaigning. When he’s on the other side of the table, he’s happy to participate in the corruption. Did Trump buy the politicians who helped him arrange eminent domain actions against property owners who were in the way of his developments? He’s also quite proud of his use of bankruptcy laws allowing him to stiff lenders and investors in his enterprises. By the way, in comparing his four corporate bankruptcies to the many “deals” he’s executed over the years, he’d have you believe that the “deal” is always the relevant unit for a bankruptcy proceeding. That’s loose and misleading jargon.
I have said that Trump’s supporters really don’t know what their getting. Perhaps he won’t tell anyone because he’d lose “leverage”. A prime example of Trump’s shiftiness was his response to the following question on single-payer health care systems, including his attempt to embarrass Rand Paul:
Baier: “Now, 15 years ago, you called yourself a liberal on health care. You were for a single-payer system, a Canadian-style system. Why were you for that then and why aren’t you for it now?“
As Peter Suderman noted, Trump’s response to this question about health care began with his views on the war in Iraq. Donald’s rules…. But eventually, he addressed the health care question with a stream of words that thinking people might have been tempted to process logically in order to divine a coherent “Trump” position on the issue, but that would have been a mistake:
“As far as single payer, it works in Canada. It works incredibly well in Scotland. It could have worked in a different age, which is the age you’re talking about here.
What I’d like to see is a private system without the artificial lines around every state. I have a big company with thousands and thousands of employees. And if I’m negotiating in New York or in New Jersey or in California, I have like one bidder. Nobody can bid. You know why? Because the insurance companies are making a fortune because they have control of the politicians, of course, with the exception of the politicians on this stage. But they have total control of the politicians. They’re making a fortune.“
This is not a great moment of clarity for Trump. We still don’t know what he has in mind. He demonstrates that he doesn’t quite understand the inherent flaws in single-payer. If his complaint is with consolidation of the health insurance industry, single-payer would imply an even greater consolidation, indeed, a monopoly. A “private system” does not rule out single-payer. While the insurance companies have undoubtedly influenced politicians, just as Trump has, why is he complaining about a lack of choice, having just asserted that single-payer could work so well? And artificial lines have to do with non-price rationing, a typical feature of government intervention in markets. Thus far, the profits of under-pricing insurers have been protected by so-called “risk corridors” built into Obamacare. Would Trump allow health care providers and insurers to reprice in order to eliminate “artificial lines”? Trump’s words did not settle any questions about his position.
The end of Trump’s response is this:
“And then we have to take care of the people that can’t take care of themselves. And I will do that through a different system.“
So… was Trump still talking about single-payer or not? I forgive Rand Paul for imagining that he was. It was the only solid statement that one could cling to in Trump’s ramble.
Here is Suderman’s summary of Trump’s response with an account of the exchange with Rand Paul that followed:
“What matters is that [Trump] would be different. Different how? So very, very different—and definitely not a moron/loser/dummy/incompetent (pick one) like this other guy.
This is how Trump responds to almost everything: By not answering the question, by babbling out some at-best semi-relevant references, by promising to somehow be different and better without explaining how or why, and then by lobbing an insult.
An insult is how Trump finishes the Obamacare exchange as well. After Trump finishes answering the question, Sen. Rand Paul cuts in, saying, ‘News flash, the Republican Party’s been fighting against a single-payer system for a decade. So I think you’re on the wrong side of this if you’re still arguing for a single-payer system.’ [SCC’s bolding]
Trump’s comeback: ‘I’m not—I’m not are—I don’t think you heard me. You’re having a hard time tonight.’
The gist, as always, is that someone else—indeed, practically everyone else—is a dummy, a loser, a politician. Trump is the only one who really gets it, whatever it is.“
While I thought Rand Paul’s interjectory approach to debating was unwise, his comment to Trump was on-target, and he even qualified it. Trump responded with snark. Trump has yet to take a real position on health care in this campaign, but he has supported single-payer in the past. He doesn’t want to go to the trouble of deciding or revealing a specific plan just yet. Perhaps he’s “maintaining leverage”, keeping his options open, because he’s such a smart businessman. If you want to treat politics like a business deal, fine, but smart voters should be your partners, and they will expect you to reveal your terms.