WASHINGTON — Chilling in tropical Bali, Barack Obama is much on people's minds here as Obamacare's fate is discussed behind closed Republican doors. Outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's, R-Ky., elegant Capitol office, reporters are a dime a dozen — and the men who grimly come and go never speak of Michelangelo.
Things aren't what they used to be, as Obama's ghost watches in mute agony. Yet, I might add, he bears blame for this wrenching winter, spring — and now summer. His perplexing lack of action helped Trump over the wall to take the Oval.
Now comes President Trump's chance to wreck Obama's cherished Affordable Care Act. Trump summoned the 52 Republican senators to the White House during the drama, which meant they had to board a bus in front of protestors for Planned Parenthood. Several women were dressed as chained characters in "The Handmaid's Tale." Oh, what a rare scene, under storm clouds, while the bus lingered and held the caucus captive to hear free speech.
At 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Trump plunked himself between senators he hoped to sway his way with his patented charm: Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. So subtle.
As he addressed the gathering, Trump had a hard time remembering senators do not work for him. He can't fire anyone at the end of the hour. They each have their own agenda and state at heart. To finish his lack of leverage, Trump ran against a few in the 2016 election, such as Marco Rubio, R-Fla. He taunted him as "Little Marco." I'm sure Rubio remembers that. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was "Lyin' Ted."
The only friend Trump had in the Senate was Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the Alabama Republican who is — for now — attorney general. The Confederate name is a clue, but what does Trump care? Trump was angry with Sessions recusing himself from the Russian investigation; what does "recuse" even mean?
Strange thing passing, but the Republican repeal push on health care echoes Obama's efforts to get it passed in the first place, six or seven years ago. First, neither the 44th nor the 45th president have strong ties or friends in Congress. Lacking discipline for unity, Trump will remain an obstreperous outsider to the political establishment; that's what he ran on.
Too cool for school, Obama never insulted colleagues in Congress during his short time there as a senator, but he was aloof and absent, often on a book tour and already planning to run for president. A freshman, he fatefully forgot to court elders, like McConnell.
Obama's best friend, Senator Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., would have championed and shepherded a stronger health care reform bill faster through Congress — had he lived a year longer. Kennedy died in August 2009 at 77. The weaker Obamacare bill finally passed (with a lift by Speaker Nancy Pelosi) in 2010, with no public option to lower premiums.
Trump and Obama chose chatty vice presidents to soften their relations on the Hill: Joe Biden and Mike Pence.
Radically different in almost all ways, Obama and Trump share one important trait: Each is a loner at the end of the day. They play politics as powerful solo artists, when it is a team sport. Unable to persuade Congress to work with him, Obama eventually resorted to an executive order presidency.
It's indefensible that independent artist Obama appointed Republican James Comey, known for a dramatic flair for piety, the FBI director. The president crossed the political street, impressed with Comey's grandstanding as a George W. Bush appointee. Polls show Comey cost Hillary Clinton dearly in the presidential campaign, by speaking out against her (for no good reason.) Comey's grave missteps on the email matter violated the FBI's sacred rule: Keep American democracy — elections — intact.
Tragically, tepid Obama failed to speak when it mattered most, on Russian interference. He didn't want to help Clinton even as his FBI guy hurt her. Summer faded into fall. Obama never told the American people fully and forcefully the nation was under cyberattack to swing the election toward Trump. We had a right to know.
Obama left the election hanging like a chad in Trump's hands — and Donald's new best friend, Vladimir. And look at us now.
To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit creators.com.