Trump’s Next Move: Infrastructure

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I’ve changed my mind on priority.

Instead of going to tax reform next, President Trump should work on that big-league infrastructure bill. Now. Fast.

President Trump needs a big win because power is in perception. He also needs to put Democrats in a bind. Plus, he needs to prove he can pass big legislation without all GOP factions on board.

The solution is infrastructure.

During the campaign, Trump spoke of a massive building project to rejuvenate our roads, modernize our airports, and more. Trump’s dream sounds more like a traditional Democrat plan than a Republican idea. (Unless you count Eisenhower and Reagan as Republicans.) Shifting to infrastructure now could more than overcome Trump’s defeat on health care.

Infrastructure Can Pass

Trump’s best known for building his way to billionaire status. That makes Trump seem like an expert on the subject. No one considered Trump an expert on government health care. And no one can deny that he’s an expert on building big, huge, beautiful things and running them great.

Byron York, one of my favorite columnists, makes a great point today in a column called “14 Lessons from the GOP Obamacare Debacle“:

Had Trump and the House GOP tackled, say, an infrastructure bill first, the story from Capitol Hill would have been a president and Congress giving things to the American people — surely a more popular legislative start to an already controversial presidency.

Even though infrastructure will have enemies in the GOP, Congressmen and Senators from Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania know that jobs matter. Democrat governors are openly salivating for the projects. So are a lot of Republican state legislatures, though less publicly.

Infrastructure projects promise both immediate, short-term jobs and longer term boosts to productivity and growth. Even some Freedom Caucus members from the rust belt will feel obliged to get on board this train.

But that’s not the best part.

Democrats Will Cross Over for Infrastructure

Trump’s relationships with labor unions are already high for a Republican president. Now, he needs to deliver something to that small but well-funded and activist constituency. He needs to deliver jobs.

Democrats know they can’t fight Trump on a bill that puts a lot of union members to work. Infrastructure will attract enough Democrat votes to neutralize the Freedom Caucus, which will probably oppose the legislation.

And that last point is perhaps the most important.

Courting Democrats Builds Leverage With Republicans

President Trump and Reince Priebus both said they are more willing to work with Democrats now than before the health care debacle. That’s smart negotiating. It’s leverage.

If you remember back to 2015, a lot of Republicans were complaining that many of Trump’s ideas sounded more like a Democrat. That means Trump would be completely consistent with himself if he sought more support from the other party.

Plus, in 2020, Trump won’t be judged by how happy he made 40 members of the Freedom Caucus. He’ll be judged by whether or not he made America great again in the eyes of voters. That’s just the way it is.

And the GOP’s majorities in Congress are so slim that Trump really needs some Democrats down the road. He could have used a dozen in the House on Friday. He will definitely some in the Senate for just about everything.

Again, hat tip to Byron York for reminding us:

Find more votes. Unless there is exceptional unity on an issue, the GOP doesn’t have enough votes to ignore Democrats and pass big legislation entirely on its own. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid (barely) passed Obamacare with 253 Democrats in the House and 60 in the Senate. Paul Ryan has 237 Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has 52. The GOP has virtually no room for error.

If every major bill relies on every Republican faction, Trump will accomplish nothing and Democrats will take the House in 2018. Believe me, Democrats will take the House in 2018 if Trump and the Republicans don’t get big things done. (I’m not alone on this. Ted Cruz agrees with me.)

As we saw last week, even after Mark Meadows and David Brat reach an agreement with House leadership and the White House, Meadows and Brat might not deliver the Freedom Caucus. There’s a chance that group will oppose all major legislation, including tax reform if it’s not to their liking. So Trump needs to attract some Democrats now, and infrastructure is the low-hanging fruit.

And timing is important on getting those Democrat cross-overs.

Commitment and Consistency

The sooner some Democrats hold their noses and vote for a Trump initiative, the more Trump can rely on those Democrats in the future. You know this because of the persuasion principle called “commitment and consistency.” The longer Democrats vote “no” on everything the president proposes, the harder it will be for them to get behind the president later.

Researchers find in numerous studies that getting people to take an easy, painless step now makes it more likely that they’ll take a harder, more painful step in the future. That’s because the brain is wired to display consistency with past commitments.

With the right messaging, those Democrats who support the bill will make a statement of commitment to jobs, growth, and make America great again. When it comes time to vote on tax reform, Trump just needs to wrap that legislation in the same commitment language.

A strong move on infrastructure would make a lot of people happy. Happy people see more positives than unhappy people. That makes it easier for people find positives in future, tougher legislation like tax reform.

If Trump makes a strong move on infrastructure in the next two weeks, his larger vision will pick up steam after the summer recess. And the warring factions in the GOP will have to consider this: are their interests better off if they negotiate with Trump or if the Democrats do?

Voters will judge Republicans on what they get done between now and the 2018 elections. So far, they’re putting up goose eggs. A big win on infrastructure will make a lot of people happy and forge new alliances that can make America great again.

How to Neuter a Crossing Guard

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This is for my conservative friends who are celebrating the healthcare bill’s demise. You’ll want to read it all.

Let’s begin with a little story about a crossing guard.

Imagine you are standing at a dangerous intersection now. Cars whizzing by nonstop in all 4 directions. You feel powerless and frustrated. There are no structural safeguards, no physical barriers, to keep us from getting hit. There is a crossing guard, though.

This crossing guard can get us safely through the intersection if the drivers respect his authority and power. Only if they stop when he raises his hand. That’s all he’s got.

Those drivers take cues from each other. When they see other drivers stop, they stop, too. But when they see one driver run through the crossing guard’s stop sign, they all feel more emboldened to do the same.

Pretty soon, the crossing guard is just another poor slob standing on the side of the road with the rest of us. And none of us can get where we want to go.

In a moment, I’ll talk about the healthcare bill. But, first, I want to talk about breathing.

You Think Like You Breathe

Notice your breath for a moment. Are you breathing fast and shallow or slow and deep? Breathing is so important. Breathing affects our hormones and hormones affect our thinking. We can change our thinking by changing our breathing, and we can change breathing by changing our thinking.

Slow deep breaths cause the body to produce less cortisol. Fast, shallow breathing produces more cortisol. Cortisol causes weight gain, hardening of the arteries, and defensive thinking. The part of the brain where memories and strategy rest, the hippocampus, shuts down when cortisol levels rise. We react to the immediate stimuli without using our most valuable and effective knowledge. We become like animals snared in a trap.

That cortisol hormone does a good job of keeping us alive when we’re in extreme danger. But it does a huge disservice when we’re not under physical attack. In real danger, we don’t want to think deep thoughts. We want to hide, overpower our attacker, or run away.

Now that you’re aware of your breathing, you realize you’re not in physical danger. A tweet can’t really endanger you personally, can it?

The big enemy we all oppose here is big government. And we all know the bill Ryan crafted in the dark did little in that regard. So there was good reason to oppose that bill.

But there is also something larger at play here, and if you breathe slow and deep, you might feel better about a lot of things today.

Actions Have Consequences We Sometimes Don’t Consider

Remember how you felt on November 9? And remember how you felt on January 20. Remember seeing all those violent protesters in Washington and other places? Which team were you on then? Maybe you didn’t say anything, but you were probably on Trump’s team. You were probably a little proud and amazed that he did it. Despite all the doubts and all the MSM 98% certainty that Hillary Clinton would choose Antonin Scalia’s replacement, you were happy to be on the winning team.

You might find yourself breathing even deeper now just thinking about that winning day. We tend to take a deep breath when we win.

That inauguration day was less than 70 days ago, so the memory is still fresh in your mind. Then, you probably expected all kinds of great things. With a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican President, we could do a lot to realize our dreams of smaller government and a growing economy. Who doesn’t want to make America great again?

And then some Congress people reverted to their old ways. Bills written by lobbyists. But that’s not the worst thing that could happen.

Now imagine this: imagine if Neil Gorsuch gets rejected by the Senate. Imagine one or two squishy Republican Senators like Susan Collins deciding Trump doesn’t have the political power anymore to hold her vote. Imagine if Mitch McConnell decides, after that healthcare vote, that it’s too risky to use the nuclear option on Gorsuch. There’s no going back from that option, really. The next Democrat president will have it, too, just as Trump’s cabinet benefits from the Democrats’ nuclear option.

Many people are saying the health care bill’s failure has greatly reduced Trump’s power. He might already be a lame duck, along with this Congress.

If you’re breathing faster and shallower now, just pay attention to your breathing. You will start to breathe slower and deeper in a moment. And that’s important because you don’t want a lot of cortisol clogging your arteries and shutting down your hippocampus.

Consequences We Might Own

Blocking the healthcare bill was a high stakes gamble. It took a lot of courage to fight against a president in his first 100 days. I can’t remember a newly inaugurated president getting hit so hard so early in his administration. Reagan suffered a few setbacks, but nothing like this.

It’s very likely now that Obamacare will live forever. At least as long as you and I are alive. It’s also possible that there will be no tax reform. Do you think 8 Democrats are so afraid of the White House that they’ll break with their party to vote for cloture on a tax reform package now?  How do you see that happening?

It’s also possible that Gorsuch will be rejected, either because some squishy Republicans bail or because McConnell loses the nerve to change the filibuster rule. That means those Obama and Clinton judges in the appellate courts will decide the law until Trump finds a Supreme Court candidate so “moderate” that 8 Democrats will support them.  How do you think such a justice would rule on abortion, on gun control, and on immigration?

And if this Congress and this Republican president do nothing major between now and 2018, how do you expect voters to keep this Congress in power? Trump won because he recognized that many people think America is in bad shape and going in the wrong direction. They expected Trump and Congress to change the direction of the country. If nothing gets done, won’t they try something new? Remember, most voters are not like you and me. Most voters don’t care about our principles. And in-fighting among Republicans only makes them care less about those principles. To the average American voter, we all sound strange and abstract. To the average voter, we care more about academic theories than we do about their lives. You can probably remember hearing this from people yourself if you think about it.

How’s your breath going? Just take a deep breath and feel your stomach swell out. You’ll want access to your memories soon.

Our Crossing Guard and Our Accountability

Now, remember that crossing guard? The Freedom Caucus and some conservative think tanks drove the first car through the stop sign. If the other drivers—McConnell, Collins, Schumer—see there’s no consequence to ignoring the crossing guard, we’ll all fail to get where we’re going.

Maybe we don’t like the way the crossing guard distributes the stopping and going. Maybe we don’t like the hand signals he uses. But, until Friday, he was at least trying to get a few of us to the other side. He was trying to get some of us a little closer to our destinations safely.

Maybe that crossing guard will get some of his power back. Because principles without power are just platitudes. I hope so. I know of all the great things the Heritage Foundation and the Freedom Caucus have done. But neither Heritage nor the Freedom Caucus can stop that traffic without a strong, respected crossing guard.

You, like me, believe in accountability. And you, like me, recognize that accountability begins with ourselves. When we choose a direction, we must accept the consequences of our choice. Conservatives may have laid the foundation for Democrats retaking Congress in 2018. If that happens, the Freedom Caucus, Heritage, and Club for Growth own at least 40 percent of the blame.

I now return you to your natural breathing.

Without Power, Principles Are Platitudes

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Without power, principles are platitudes.

Consider this a favor to the Freedom Caucusers. Those folks can’t see past the end of their own principles.

Knowing the Freedom Caucus people pretty well, I know they’re very happy with Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. I know they’d be very miserable if Gorsuch were rejected and Trump had to nominate someone who could win a few Democrat votes.

It’s all about power.

Why Gorsuch’s Chances Just Dropped

And, thanks to Speaker Ryan and the Freedom Caucus, Neil Gorsuch’s chances of confirmation just dropped below 50-50. That’s because the Senate’s two squishiest Republicans just saw there’s no consequence to bucking the President. And those Republicans who considered the nuclear option just learned there’s no benefit in sticking your neck out for the President.

Add it all up, and Paul Ryan and the Freedom Caucus have, for the time being, made Trump a one-term President and made this Congress a lame duck. All in less than 80 days. Good work, boys.

Expect to hear Mitch McConnell tamp down talk of the nuclear option. And don’t be surprised if you hear Susan Collins (and one or two others) equivocate on their support for Gorsuch. It’ll probably happen during the Sunday talk shows. Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer has a new, heavy bludgeon to keep Democrat Senators from voting “aye” on Gorsuch. Expect 48 Democrats to vote “no.”

Power shifted on Friday. Big league.

The GOP Is Dangerously Weak

Right now, Donald Trump is very weak. Paul Ryan is even weaker. But the Freedom Caucus is also weak. The Freedom Caucus remains an obstructive faction composed of people who show little or no understanding of power. (If you want to learn about power, read Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power. It’s a masterpiece.)

To get his power back, Trump needs to isolate, personalize, and destroy a member of the Freedom Caucus. This takedown needs to be obvious, transparent, and ruthless. Trump needs to show Republican Senators that bucking the White House on major issues is a career ender. And he needs to act with blinding speed.

Trump can borrow a tactic from the Tea Party. It was a tactic we borrowed from Saul Alinsky:

Rule 13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

Once Trump’s team has destroyed a Freedom Caucuser, a House faction needs to do the same to Paul Ryan. Trump should not attack Ryan directly, though. The chances of taking down a Speaker are slim. If the President tries and fails to take down Ryan, his presidency is over. Besides, in retrospect, people will credit Trump with the takedown if it’s successful. People are conditioned to think it’s the kind of thing Trump would do.

Within the House of Representatives, it doesn’t matter who goes after Ryan. Just about any faction of the House Republican caucus has good cause to take down Ryan. Once they see the Alinsky method used successfully against one of their own, they’ll know what to do.

And once those Republican Senators see Trump carve up both a Freedom Caucus member and the establishment Speaker, they will fall in line.

People follow power.

America’s Survival Hangs in the Balance

Look, if you read my blog, you know I helped, in tiny ways, the Freedom Caucus to come about. Almost every member of the Freedom Caucus got to Congress thanks to the Tea Party.

My complicity in creating the Freedom Caucus doesn’t mean I support their actions blindly. It means I accept accountability for the Freedom Caucus’s actions. The way some Freedom Caucus members handled the healthcare bill was embarrassingly childish. As J. Marsolo writes on American Thinker:

But it came down to about fifteen Republicans, mostly from the conservative Freedom Caucus, who refused to vote for the Ryan plan, as modified by Trump.  It is difficult to understand why the Republicans could not compromise with the fifteen Freedom Caucus members to pass the bill.  It is also difficult to understand why these fifteen did not compromise and refused to vote.

The key is to repeal Obamacare.  Now they have their principles, and we have Obamacare.

Right now, I firmly believe the Freedom Caucus and Paul Ryan have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Their stupidity and childishness have damaged their President, possibly beyond repair. They have made a Republican Congress useless. Absent a dramatic move, Democrats will take control of the House of Representives and possibly the Senate on January 3, 2019. And Corey Booker will become the 46th President on January 20, 2021.

If that’s what the Freedom Caucus wants, I’m out.

Only Trump can save Republicans from themselves. Saving the Republican Party requires culling the herd. It’s time to put the fear of Trump back into Republican hearts.

Without power, principles are platitudes.

And there’s hope. This morning, President Trump tweeted this:

Great minds think alike.

Jobs Trump Healthcare

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I feel drunk but I’m sober, I’m young and I’m underpaid
I’m tired but I’m working, yeah
I care but I’m restless, I’m here but I’m really gone
I’m wrong and I’m sorry baby

—Alanis Morissette, One Hand In My Pocket

If your biggest problem involves choosing between multiple appealing jobs, everything else will seem less important. Because picking the right job is a really big deal.

For the past decade, you’ve probably worried about finding or keeping any job. Many people work several part-time jobs. A lot of young people have to live with their parents. No one seems sure they’ll get a paycheck next week.

When you don’t feel secure and you don’t feel you have choices, every little problem looks bigger and closer. Healthcare seems like a threat. A new president seems menacing. Uncertainty all around.

What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine
‘Cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving a high five

—Alanis Morissette, One Hand In My Pocket

But when you feel in control of your life, your brain gets more creative. Those problems that once looked big and close now seem tiny and far away. Specks, really. You can flick them away with your middle finger. And it feels good, doesn’t it?

Donald Trump and the GOP have a chance to put so many problems in the past. It all starts with tax reform. Tax reform that lets people start new businesses. Tax reform that encourages companies to bring foreign money back home to us. Tax reform and regulatory reform that lets companies spend more money on research and development and raises and new jobs.

When America is building, Americans are winning. You want to win, don’t you? You want to get tired of winning. So tired of winning.

You don’t have to celebrate this great moment in history until it lifts you. But you might find yourself smiling and whistling as those great jobs come back, as the factories reopen, as the big problems of today become little specks of problems in your past.

There’s no need for gloom and doom. Maybe we haven’t figured it all out just yet, but you have one hand in your pocket and the other one’s flicking those problems away.

America is about to hit a winning streak. And you’re on that winning team.

Antibiotic-Resistent Bacterium: Obamacare

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Overexposure to antibiotics and antibacterial soaps and lotions makes bacteria stronger. They adapt.

That same thing happened to Obamacare over the years. It’s now untouchable.

  • Obamacare survived the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts. So it was born in a toxic environment.
  • Then, Obamacare survived two Supreme Court rulings, each time by a single vote from the chief justice.
  • Finally, Obamacare survived seven years of Republican promises to repeal it immediately upon winning the White House and Congress. That’s like bacteria surviving an antibiotic cocktail crafted specifically to attack that particular bacterium.

Obamacare now looks impervious to Republican chemotherapy.

Here’s what will happen now.

  • Premiums will continue rise by 20% or more every year. Deductibles will rise. Healthcare will become more expensive. Insurers will continue to pull out of markets. Many Americans will have no choice of carriers. Obamacare will explode.
  • Democrats will ask the White House and Congressional Republicans for help. The media will portray Republicans as heartless savages who eat the still-beating hearts of the fallen poor.
  • As the 2018 mid-terms approach, establishment Republicans will demand improvements to keep Obamacare alive. A few dozen Democrats in the House and Senate will work with Republican moderates to craft Obamacare fixes. The House Freedom Caucus will fight tooth and nail, but enough Democrats will cross the aisle to neutralize the Freedom Caucus’s strength.
  • The compromise legislation will include many of the deregulatory features promised in phases two and three of the Ryan plan. But the beating heart of Obamacare will beat on.

Republicans’ seven-year promise of repealing the bill that grew the Tea Party from an eruption to a movement will die a quiet death. When President Trump talks about Obamacare exploding and how he’ll fix it, he’s talking about a fix that will make the just-defeated bill look like something Murray Rothbard hatched.

If we’re lucky, a vibrant American economy with jobs galore and lower taxes will make this healthcare debacle a minor blip. In other words, expect exactly what Scott Adams predicted Tuesday:

7 Questions for the Freedom Caucus

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Yesterday, I placed blame for the healthcare debacle at Speaker Ryan’s feet. I also wrote that I expected the Republican establishment to blame the tea party. To blame us for aborting the Trump presidency in his first 100 days.

Today, I’m going to beat the establishment to that punch a little. Because the Freedom Caucus and some of my favorite action organizations looked a little juvenile in this debate. Juvenile and stupid. In fact, if this were an auto accident (instead of a trainwreck) I’d allocate responsibility at about 60% to Ryan and 40% to the Freedom Caucus.

But that’s my initial assessment. I could change my mind if I get some answers to these questions.

  1. Did you honestly believe that the bill you defeated was worse than Obamacare?
  2. Did you honestly believe that defeating Paul Ryan’s bill would inspire the Republican establishment to write a better bill?
  3. Did you honestly try to improve the bill, or did you decide early on to just kill it?
  4. What is your end state on health care?
  5. What is your plan to achieve that end state?
  6. Do you accept the assessment by many that you retroactively vote “aye” on Obamacare, seven years after the fact?
  7. Do you accept accountability for the consequences of defeating the new president in his first major legislative initiative?

I’d love to hear from the House Freedom Caucus members themselves. I know some of those members committed to voting “aye” on the bill yesterday. And others bargained in good faith, indicated they really wanted to vote for the bill.

Others, however, wanted to kill the bill because of the hamfisted way Ryan brought it from the dark to the light. These obstructionists intended to inflict their damage no matter how good the bill became. I direct my questionnaire to those saboteurs. I wonder if they realize how much damage they might have just done to their own cause. I wonder if they realize that people prefer incremental improvement to shock treatment.

I wrote, if this bill fails, Obamacare is here to stay. The bill failed.

Everyone who helped kill the bill helped keep Obamacare around. You said in effect, “I hate Obamacare, but it’s better than what the Republicans offered.” In other words, the 30 or so holdouts in the House own Obamacare now. As do those activist organizations who cheered on the obstructionists.

I’ve written before of my affinity for Patton’s quote:

A leader is a man who can adapt principles to circumstances.

— George Patton

When Donald Trump won in November, circumstances changed dramatically. Leaders would have adapted their principles to these new circumstances. Both Ryan and his opponents seemed determined to adapt circumstances to their principles. They both failed.

[Read how strategy beats hyperventilation]

Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, but I have a feeling that the Freedom Caucus did what 16 Republicans, Hillary Clinton, and the entire mainstream media establishment could not. I have a feeling the Freedom Caucus destroyed Donald Trump’s chances of winning. And I’m not alone.

From Daniel Flynn at Breitbart:

Presidents never get second chances to make first impressions. So, Donald Trump’s opportunities to repeal and replace ObamaCare after this week’s failures diminish as time passes.

The late Milton Friedman in his book The Tyranny of the Status Quo noted that “a new administration has some six to nine months in which to achieve major changes; if it does not seize the opportunity to act decisively during that period, it will not have another such opportunity. Further changes come slowly or not at all, and counterattacks develop against the initial changes. The temporarily routed political forces regroup, and they tend to mobilize everyone who was adversely affected by the changes, while the proponents of the changes tend to relax after their initial victories.”

. . .

Prospects for Republicans fulfilling their seven-year-old promise to the American people now look bleak. And conservatives, once again, find themselves conserving liberal laws.

From “Freedom Caucus drives dagger into heart of young Trump presidency” by Elizabeth Peek on FoxNews.com:

It is hard to overestimate the damage the Freedom Caucus has done to the fledgling presidency of Donald Trump, and to the country. By blocking the American Health Care Act of 2017, the conservative group has guaranteed that Americans will struggle forward under the burden of Obamacare. In the next few months insurers will announce their premium hikes for the coming year; chances are, given the continuing withdrawal of major companies from the marketplaces and the ongoing failure of the bill to attract enough young and healthy participants, the new rates will not be pretty. Last year premiums went up 25%; it’s likely the increases will be higher this year.

. . .

This is the truth: the Freedom Caucus has breathed new life into the demolished Democratic Party.

We shall see if Ms. Peek’s and Mr. Flynn’s grim conclusions are correct. But their assessments of the immediate damage seems obvious. And the lack of mature leadership from the Freedom Caucus is indisputable.

When I think of leadership, I think of Patton. Paul Ryan gave us General Fredendall. The Freedom Caucus gave us even less.

UPDATE: From Peggy Noonan who sees things so clearly:

Politically it’s all obvious. For the new administration it is a loss and a significant one. It has damaged the new president’s prestige. Every president until he fails has the aura of unused power. Boy, when I use it, you’re gonna see muscle. He used it. No muscle. Fatal? No. Damaging and diminishing? Yes. It is an embarrassment too for Speaker Paul Ryan.Together they could not get a win on the board after they threw everything they have into it. This does not speak well for everything they have.

. . .

The central dynamic behind the bill’s difficulties is that the Republican conference in the House is divided between institutionalists, who support the leadership; conservatives, who found the bill too soft; and moderates, who found it too hard. By putting forward the bill, they allowed this division—which was wholly predictable and may be irreconcilable—to play out as a public breakdown rather than an impasse.

From Philip Klein in Washington Examiner:

In this case, the hardliners were playing a productive role by pointing out the real policy consequences of the piecemeal approach being pursued by the House leadership. Though we’ll never know for sure how the numbers might have looked if a vote had taken place, it’s clear that many centrist members of the Republican caucus were also prepared to vote this bill down. House conservatives, if they could be blamed for anything, it’s for having the audacity to urge leadership to actually honor seven years of pledges to voters to repeal Obamacare. If anybody was moving the goal posts, it wasn’t Freedom Caucusers, it was those who were trying to sell a bill that kept much of Obamacare’s regulatory architecture in place as a free market repeal and replace plan.

Finally, from Robert Costa, whom President Trump called immediately upon pulling the bill:

What happened with the House Freedom Caucus, the hard-line conservatives he had wooed over and over again?

“Ah, that’s the big question,” Trump said with a slight chuckle. “Don’t know. I have a good relationship with them, but I couldn’t get them. They just wouldn’t do it.”

Trump alluded to long-running, simmering dramas on Capitol Hill, which he said had little to do with him, as a reason the Freedom Caucus could not back the bill.

“Years of hatred and distrust,” he said. “Long before me.”

Was Trump saying, perhaps, that the inability of Ryan and his team to work well with that caucus was part of why talks stalled?

“Well, look, you can say what you want,” Trump said. “But there are years of problems, great hatred and distrust, and, you know, I came into the middle of it.”

“I think they made a mistake, but that’s okay,” Trump said of the Freedom Caucus.