Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

We’re now getting all the accounts of just what President Trump said last night to the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, how she interpreted it, how her Congresswoman did, how her family did. These are harrowing situations under the best circumstances. Even for a normal person, a normal President, it’s hard to know just what to say. But why are we here? Why is this whole thing happening? It’s happening because, for whatever reason, Trump went silent on this, not only with the families but even with the public.

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Here’s the President’s comment on the Alexander-Murray Obamacare stabilization proposal from his speech this evening at the Heritage Foundation.

“And I’m pleased the Democrats have finally responded to my call for them to take responsibility for their Obamacare disaster and work with Republicans to provide much-needed relief to the American people. While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray — and I do commend it — I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.”

… per the White House pool report.

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Here’s my backgrounder (sub req) on the likely fall out of this Obamacare stabilization bill which has been tentatively agreed to in the Senate. It puts Republicans in an awful bind.

There’s an important backdrop to President Trump’s decision on CSR payments last week and the just announced deal in the Senate to stabilize Obamacare marketplaces. It’s one to follow closely. It’s one we’ll be following closely in our reporting.

If this bill becomes law, that’s a good thing in policy terms. That’s a big if. But the need for this bill was in significant measure created by President Trump’s decision to cut off CSR payments. In other words, President Trump created this necessity.

It is a very uncomfortable necessity for Republicans, particularly in the House. (Alice Ollstein takes a first look at that here.) The compromise makes some significant concessions to Republicans. But at least from my initial look they are not concessions that undermine the core law. That means that now every Republican who votes for it can be pilloried as “voting for Obamacare” or “voting to make Obamacare permanent.”

Of course, there’s some upside for Republicans too. Passing this bill may avoid some of the more dire rate hike outcomes in the midst of the 2018 midterms. But again, President Trump didn’t have to create this mess in the first place.

Every Republican who votes for this is at the mercy at the most aggressive GOP primary opponents. They will all be hanging there terribly exposed. I just heard a talking head on MSNBC arguing that Trump’s – apparent – support for this compromise will give those people cover. Hardly. President Trump is too hostile to CSR payments, too hostile to Obamacare and simply too mercurial and erratic to place any trust on.

If McConnell and Ryan pass this bill with mainly Democratic votes, that puts them in a terrible bind. They let Democrats pass Obamacare again. Remember, Bannon already wants to oust McConnell as the arch-RINO with a storm of primary challengers.

President Trump created this problem. It puts Republicans in an awful bind. Keep an eye on reactions from Republicans, particularly in the House but in the Senate too. We will too.

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The United States has been in a more or less perpetual state of war since the fall of 2001. That’s more than fifteen years. Whether you support or oppose wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and lower intensity conflicts in various other countries, it has left thousands of American men and women dead and far more with longterm injuries. The number of US military deaths is down dramatically from the middle years of the Bush presidency and even from the early years of Obama’s presidency. Military deaths in Afghanistan actually went up dramatically during Obama’s first term as he refocused the country from Iraq to Afghanistan. (According to iCasaulties.org, 1,544 American military personal died in Afghanistan during Obama’s first four years in office. The number to date this year is 11.)

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A week ago there was a raft of articles suggesting that President Trump was somehow coming undone. Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman had prominent Republicans speculating about the ex-generals having to wrestle the nuclear ‘football’ away from the President. Quotes had him “unstable”, “losing step”, “unraveling.” Retiring Senator Bob Corker said: “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him.”

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Why did President Trump make up this lie about President Obama not calling the families of bereaved soldiers? It wasn’t just Obama. He seemed to say that previous presidents didn’t do this at all or only did it rarely. Anyone who follows the news knows that’s not true. Basically all Presidents at some point talk about these conversations.

It seems hard to believe that he didn’t come up with this because he had no good explanation for the fact that he’s gone more than a week without making any contact with the families or even making any public statement on what happened.