As the health care vote looms, Trump's tweets mostly look elsewhere
Posted June 26
If President Trump's Twitter feed is the the most direct window into his brain, he is spending more time focused on the various Russia investigations, Hillary Clinton and Democratic Party politics than the health care bill Senate Republicans are planning to vote on this week.
Some press critics, armchair and otherwise, have long suggested that journalists band together, ignore @realDonaldTrump and devote their attention to more pressing matters. The argument is often as much about the message as the medium -- these are, after all, just tweets. But that argument has always, especially in its most absolute forms, been lame.
It is on Twitter that the President tells us what he really cares about -- and a lot about what he doesn't. His personality and, more importantly, his priorities are on ready, constant display.
The messages are also legally relevant. Courts reviewing Trump's travel ban have repeatedly cited his public pronouncements as factors in their decision-making. Former FBI Director James Comey said Trump's tweet suggesting there were "tapes" of their conversations convinced him to leak contemporaneous memos. The bot account that frames the tweets as official statements -- a phrase White House press secretary Sean Spicer used to describe them -- drives the point home.
Put simply, Trump's tweets are important. They should not be dismissed as standard practice.
But this week -- with the Senate health care bill in the balance -- they require an especially discerning eye. The President, whose promised signature would gut Obamacare, is hardly discussing it.
Of the 15 tweets sent by Trump since Saturday morning, only four (one of them a retweeted video from the @WhiteHouse account) have mentioned health care. One implicitly pressures Republicans to line up behind the bill. The others criticize Democrats for obstruction or focus on Obamacare's failures. Democrats are united against any Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare and the GOP has made no real overtures for the minority's support. Precisely none of the tweets in this crucial time for the bill make the case for the Republican plan on the merits.
Instead, as legislators weigh their votes and thousands of Americans across the country rally against the bill, Trump has mostly dedicated his social media messaging to more personal, familiar gripes.
His only tweet on Sunday -- with a Senate vote, in theory, just days away -- was this: "Hillary Clinton colluded with the Democratic Party in order to beat Crazy Bernie Sanders. Is she allowed to so collude? Unfair to Bernie!"
(Sanders, by chance, spent his weekend on a three-city road trip -- hitting Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia -- dedicated to defending Obamacare. At no point during the 24-hour swing did Trump, so eager to put pen to paper on the legislation, tweet to support it.)
On Monday, with the Congressional Budget Office only hours away from releasing its assessment of the Senate bill, Trump began the morning by attacking Democrats, saying the party "have become nothing but OBSTRUCTIONISTS, they have no policies or ideas. All they do is delay and complain. They own ObamaCare!"
Whether one agrees with this assessment or not, he seemed to be spoiling for a fight, or at least directing his followers' attention to the health care debate.
But before he returned to the issue at a little after 9 a.m. and again in the early afternoon - once more attacking Obamacare, not pushing the GOP bill -- Trump unleashed a four-tweet storm on his predecessor's decision to remain mostly quiet, at the time, on the scope of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign -- a reference to a report in The Washington Post last week.
"The reason that President Obama did NOTHING about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling is that he expected Clinton would win ... ," the first tweet began, uncorking a stream that ended emphatically nearly a half hour later with the demand, "I should be given apology!"
That seems an unlikely proposition, but it's hardly the point. Does Trump know that? Is he purposefully seeking to take the spotlight off Senate Republicans? Maybe.
They have their work cut out for them. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway's attempt over the weekend to defend the health care bill's fundamental restructuring of Medicaid has been repeatedly deconstructed. For more on those issues and what the bill actually does, spend some time on stories like this one, from CNNMoney's Tami Luhby. She explains here, "Who gets hurt and who gets helped by the Senate health care bill."
Go ahead, watch: