History has shown that Donald Trump’s usual response when confronted with criticism is to go on the attack. But his salvos are rarely directed at arguments. His targets are the critics themselves, whom he often goes after on a deep personal level.
There’s no shortage of examples of this tactic, from Trump’s maligning of Carly Fiorina during the campaign — “Look at that face. Would anybody vote for that?” — to Arianna Huffington — “Unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man” — to Sen. John McCain, “He’s not a war hero … I like people who weren’t captured” — to Meryl Streep — “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood.”
Unfortunately, it’s a trait that has now carried over into the White House with attacks not just on individuals but entire groups of professionals including those from the intelligence community — “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction” — to the United Nations — “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!” — to, of course, the media — “the enemy of the people.”
But last week, the White House reached another low wits its denigration of the Congressional Budget Office — the one public agency whose job is to stay out of the politics in Washington and offer impartial projections of bills working their way through Congress. It’s also the one agency that is expected to play a central role in deciding the fate of the plan that Republicans are pushing through the House to replace the Affordable Care Act.
“If you’re looking to the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Wednesday. On what grounds does he make such a claim? Apparently because the agency over-projected the enrollment that the Affordable Care Act would receive for its online marketplaces.
It’s weak criticism indeed and, worse, it’s clearly a pre-emptive attack on the CBO, which is expected to issue its analysis on Monday of the American Health Care Act, the name of the Republican health care plan.
A growing number of health care professionals as well as retirement groups, including AARP, have joined Democrats in arguing that the Republican plan is more repeal that replace. They say it would likely result in many of the 20 million people who have gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act to lose it. The Republicans clearly anticipate the CBO report will say much the same thing, which is why they’re ramming the legislation through the House as quickly as possible rather than waiting for the analysis to come out.
It’s bad enough that Trump, the candidate, showed a preference for maligning character rather than debating arguments. To see it become White House policy is truly outrageous.
The Congressional Budget Office has made its share of inaccurate forecasts, but history has shown its work is dependable and trustworthy. It’s clear it will be a while before we can say the same of the White House again.