By Paul K. Schwartz @PKSpaul
As we approach the new year of 2019, a look back at 2018 still leaves us with some questions that were left unanswered by the current occupant of the White House.
As you likely remember, President Donald J. Trump, true to his credit, held a somewhat contentious press conference on Nov. 7. During that press conference the president fielded questions from reporters for more than 90 minutes. Regrettably, that press conference will be remembered more for its combative nature between the president and members of the press than it will for any substantive answers provided to the questions thrown at him.
I, myself, was able to get in a question. Whether the president actually answered it, I’ll leave to you to decide for yourself. Here is the official transcript of that exchange:
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, go ahead.
Q: Mr. President, I’m from Brooklyn, so you’ll understand me.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. I understand you very well.
Q: My question is on healthcare. How is it possible to keep premiums down and cover preexisting conditions without the individual mandate to fund it?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, what we’re doing – and we’re – if you look at the Department of Labor also – Secretary separately – Secretary Azar, what they’ve done, they’ve come up with some incredible healthcare plans, which is causing great competition and driving the prices right down.
But we are getting rid of the individual mandate because it was very unfair to a lot of people. But at the same time, we’re covering the people that need it. But the individual mandate was a disaster because people that couldn’t necessarily afford it were having to pay for the privilege of not having to pay for healthcare. And it was bad healthcare, at that.
So we are working many plans for healthcare. We’re creating tremendous competition. We had Obamacare repealed and replaced. Unfortunately, one person changed his mind at the last moment. And we had no Democrat support. I have to say that. We didn’t have one vote. We would have repealed it, replaced it. We would have had a large-scale, very good healthcare plan. Now we’re doing it a different way. We’re doing it a different way.
Two points about that exchange. First, the reference to Brooklyn was made because the president had indicated he did not understand the previous questioner due to her accent. Second, the reason for my question was that during the recent midterm campaign, Republicans, including the president, made claims about their support for protecting pre-existing conditions.
Democrats attacked these claims based on the Republicans’ relentless efforts to repeal Obamacare and its protection of pre-existing conditions over the last 10 years. What they failed to point out is that with their elimination of the individual mandate, costs for protecting pre-existing conditions would become cost-prohibitive.
Like any insurance, including automobile insurance, those without car accidents are still legally required to pay for insurance that they may never need. Likewise, with healthcare insurance, those who are younger and healthier still need to pay into the insurance to keep individual costs down. Further, those who are now young and healthy will likely become older and sicker at some part of their lives and their premiums will be held in check due to younger and healthier individuals paying for insurance.
As interesting as that press conference was, there are still questions that were not asked. I don’t realistically expect them to be answered by him now. However, I provide them to you for your own consideration because the issues they represent remain worthy of your reflection. As is usually the case, the questions are a great deal more revealing than are the rhetorical answers:
- Why should the outrage over the horrific execution of Jamal Khashoggi be any less than it was for the gruesome barbaric executions of James Foley and Stephen Sotloff? By factoring in the arms deal, have you not, in a sense, placed a price tag on our values as a nation?
- You said after the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that “If they had some kind of protection inside the temple” things may have been different. Would not keeping military-style weapons such as the AR-15 used in this and many other mass killings out of the hands of the public give that guard at the door a better chance of protecting the congregants inside? Moreover, the Borderline Bar & Grill did have a security guard and he was the first to be murdered.
- While you initially said all of the right things about the pipe bombs sent to several of your political opponents, you then went political shortly thereafter claiming it hurt Republicans leading up to the midterms. Aren’t such violent actions against political opponents a threat to our democracy, regardless of which party is targeted and is something that occurs in third world dictatorships and should be condemned outright without any consideration of political ramifications?
- Globalization is as much the result of expedited movement of cargo due to containerization as it is the availability of cheap labor overseas. Is there any concern that our domestic industry and exporting community will lose out over time to their international competitors as a result of the escalating tariffs in this global economy?
- Why do you expect the results to be any different today than it was when George Bush imposed across-the-board tariffs on steel in 2003 which resulted in enough retaliation to cause him to withdraw the tariffs within a year?
- How feasible is it for a Muslim terrorist to join a caravan and walk thousands of miles to enter into the United States when he can fly in with a passport?
- When you use the term “open borders” are you not disparaging the efforts of our Customs & Border Protection officers who man the southern border 24/7?
- You have indicated that the process at the border consists of catch and release of criminals who do not return for court dates. The Case Management Program portrays a much different picture with a 99.3-percent rate returning for their court appearance. Do you have data to discredit the data from the program?
- Why did you end the Countering Violent Extremism Grant Program which was created to counter domestic white nationalist violence since antisemitism is currently on the rise?
- You indicated that some voters disguised themselves to vote more than once. Who do you think they were trying to fool? Certainly not the election judge who is not expected to remember the appearance of every voter and relies on checking off the voter rolls.
- In terms of fake news, is there any difference between news that is actually false and news that portrays you in an unflattering light which you consider false only because you do not agree with the assessment?
- Now that the midterms are over, is there an olive branch that you would consider extending to your detractors – not just Democrats but all detractors regardless of party affiliation – as a signal that you want to bring the country together and that you want them to know that you are the president of all Americans, not just your base of support? Some examples: Sign an immigration bill that does not give you everything you want but moves us in the right direction; an infrastructure bill that benefits communities as much if not more than developers; nominate for the next Supreme Court vacancy an individual who Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) described as an excellent candidate until such time that he was nominated – Merrick Garland.