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Saturday, March 23 , 2019, 2:01 am | Fair 50º


Susan Estrich: Our Laughable Leader

It was one of the stupidest threats I have ever heard from a president of the United States, followed by one of the most ludicrous blame games ever to be played by any White House.

Vote for the American Health Care Act now or Obamacare will remain in place, unchanged. That's what the president told the Republicans in the House and loudly announced to the nation. My way or the highway.

It turned out to be the highway.

Attacked from the left and right alike on the key issue of his campaign — his very first priority in office — the president decisively proved his own inadequacies. Paul Ryan did what he could.

He must loathe his leader, and who could blame him? Carrying a flawed bill that no one in the Republican Party liked, for a president who would not even consider sitting down with Democrats to try to craft a bill that would address real issues without taking away health care from 26 million Americans — of course the speaker couldn't round up the votes.

The Republicans voted more times than I can count to repeal Obamacare when Barack Obama was in the White House. But when the rubber met the road, when the man in the White House wouldn't get in their way, the Republicans backed down. 

And what did our president do? Did he accept responsibility for the defeat? Did he even remember that old saying about where the buck stops? Nah. 

He blamed the Democrats.

It was so ridiculous as to be laughable. I was sitting in a waiting room with a television turned to the news, and when the president started blaming the Democrats, everyone there laughed at him.

I can't remember the last time I was in a room where everyone, old and young, white and brown and black, openly laughed at their president — that is, unless it was during a White House Correspondents dinner, which, it's worth noting, this particular president is afraid to attend. (Who can blame him? He's laughable even when he plays it straight.)

Watching him on the TV, someone beside me asked, "Is this what Putin is like?" 

Not even close. Putin is very, very smart, shrewd, tactical and strategic, a bad guy who rarely loses a hand.

Trump is much more like a Russian oligarch. He's rich, and you're not. Therefore he's right, and you're not.

Or as one of my friends, who used to represent such people, said: They think that because they have money and you don't, they get to set the rules and always win.

That is not how it works in a democracy.

The late Peter Jennings used to say that he always carried a pocket copy of the United States Constitution. Someone needs to buy a copy for President Trump. Maybe even read it to him.

Attention, Donald: This is a democracy, not a monarchy. There are three branches of government. Not one. 

The president doesn't make laws, and he doesn't get to decide if they are constitutional. Congress passes laws, and courts review them. That's the way the founders set it up. They didn't want a king.

And if a president whose party controls Congress demands loyalty and doesn't get it, that means he's lost.

That is not the Democrats' fault. It is not Paul Ryan's fault. It is not the fault of the Freedom Caucus, the moderates or the Koch brothers.

Would the president have given credit to anyone else if he had won? Certainly not. So why refuse to take any responsibility for his foolish threat and his stunning loss?

Literally two months into his term, Donald Trump has become an international laughing stock. As a Democrat, I almost enjoy it.

As an American, it fills me with despair. Never have I felt this way about a president of the United States. And hopefully, I never will again.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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