Wheels within Wheels, or, An Intention to Fail?


This morning—continuing his valiant struggle to find a method in the madness—Jonathan Chait asks: Why Is McConnell Rushing Through a Trumpcare Bill Everybody Hates?

The House bill—which McConnell apparently intends to photocopy and them ram through the Senate—is too liberal for the Republican right and too conservative to pass the Senate.

While McConnell’s plan might be necessary in order to keep the party’s legislative strategy on track, it is highly and even delusionally optimistic, given the state of his vote count. It also runs counter to the Senate’s institutional culture. Senators cherish their power to shape and control legislation. A strategy of photocopying the House bill and ramming it through seems almost designed to violate the Senatorial ego.

This raises a question: Is it designed to violate the Senatorial ego? And thus to fail? Neither the conservative revolt nor McConnell’s plan make a lot of sense if you view them as strategies designed to yield the most right-wing health-care policy that is attainable. They do make sense as a strategy designed to insulate Republicans from failure.

Republicans have made two promises that can’t be reconciled. They promised to repeal Obamacare, and to replace it with a terrific law that would take care of everybody. As the House Republican ad put it, they promised, “more choices and better care, at lower costs. … peace of mind to people with preexisting conditions … without disrupting existing coverage.” Those things cannot be reconciled. If Republicans repeal Obamacare, they will put in place something that not only fails to provide the better, cheaper care they have promised the country, but does not meet even the minimal threshold of access to basic care for people who currently receive it.

From that standpoint, the winning play for the GOP might be to try to repeal and replace Obamacare but fail. If they are seen trying and failing to repeal the law, it might upset the base, but most Republican lawmakers will have their opposition to Obamacare on the record. And if it is to fail, it should fail quickly, so they can move on to cutting taxes.


Paul Ryan is in on the conspiracy to make the bill fail.

It’s a Conspiracy!


The commentariat is atwitter today with claims that Judge Gorsuch, his handlers, and even Trumplethinskin himself conspired to publicize the judge’s discomfort with presidential statements that aim to intimidate the judiciary. All this in a Machiavellian scheme to wear down Democratic resistance to the nomination.

Maybe these claims of conspiracy are right. Aardvark would not know.

But Aardvark does know two or three things.

First, although Senator Aardvark would vote against the good judge, the judge seems to be a decent person who tries to do the right thing, as he sees it.

Aardvark, who has seen a hairy situation or two, has never encountered a circumstance that was improved by gratuitous impugning of motives.

Second, the conspiratorial explanation does not pass Occam’s test. Here is the more parsimonious explanation.

  1. Judge Gorsuch knew that he was in a highly visible situation in which he would be asked a difficult question.
  2. In view of the foregoing, Judge Gorsuch—like any serious person, and, in particular, like any serious member of the bar—gave some thought to what words he would use to answer the anticipated difficult question, and the circumstances in which he would use those words.
  3. Being a decent and competent jurist, Judge Gorsuch is in fact appalled by presidential attacks on the judiciary.
  4. When the time came, and when the difficult question was asked, Judge Gorsuch responded in a way that (i) reflected his actual opinions and (ii) used the words he had decided in advance to use, in order to express his actual opinions.

Mystery solved. Parsimoniously.