Today's Paper Obits Best of Northwest Arkansas MIKE MASTERSON: Earned trust Style Today's Photos Crime Puzzles

The much-maligned GOP "establishment" protects the president far better than he gives it credit. Arkansas provides a good example.

"The establishment" is not Senate leader Mitch McConnell or House Speaker Paul Ryan. Those are the nominal leaders only so far as it can be led. The real establishment cleans up after the president, the speaker and the majority leader.

The president created a problem last week. He ended an Obamacare subsidy after repeated failures to pass an Obamacare replacement. State governments, including Arkansas', will cope with this problem and mitigate the impact. State governments these days heavily tend to be Republican. Congress might even fix things, restoring the subsidy for a couple of years. Congress, these days, is Republican.

Despite this damage control, insurance rates went up more than those rates were climbing already. Nothing could stop that after-effect of the president's action. Erratic, temperamental and arbitrary moves by an administration will do that. Those rates will not go down after the self-induced problem is fixed, if it is.

This is movement, not progress. Yet the president got something to move, which is what he wanted. Progress on health care is exactly what he and GOP leaders in Congress failed to deliver. I would argue a big reason is because the president promised the impossible: better! cheaper! covers everybody! But other GOP leaders certainly failed to deliver on seven years worth of promises. Now all they have to show after the debacle is a demonstrated ability to make the situation worse.

"First, do no harm" is as good a rule in politics as it is in medicine.

This state's Republican governor, leading his Republican administration, worked according to state laws enacted in the past by a Republican-dominated Legislature to clean up this latest spill as best they can. Other states with GOP administrations are doing the same. Certainly, their own duty to govern and their own political survival inspire much of this action. But GOP office holders will still spare the president from the worst effects of his spite, and there is notably little protest from them to Trump's actions. There is some, though.

"His strategy appears to be just repeal it without a solution, and that's what I've never said is a good policy solution," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said of the president on Tuesday. The governor also noted, "You've got an impact on 4,000 Arkansans that are having the rug pulled out from underneath them right now."

Consider events before this latest rug-pulling. Readers may remember my "TARP for Texas" column from last month. I very harshly criticized the last-gasp bill on health care "reform" the GOP leaders tried to pass. I made mention of how our governor had a hand in drafting this bill. Consider that bill's provisions and how it would have taken large chunks of federal taxpayer money away from Arkansas and spread it around "evenly" to GOP states like Texas.

Now there is an example of how hard a hit Republican governors like Arkansas' are willing to "take for the team." That is how far they would go so the GOP could get a health care bill passed. Yet less than a month later, those same party faithful were blindsided by this latest stunt.

The closest thing to a warning the administration gave state governments or members of Congress before it yanked the subsidies was weeks of mumbling and threats. If Obamacare failed, Congress would have to fix it, this "logic" went. This is nonsense. There is no way a president could deliberately, openly sabotage Obamacare after Congress failed to replace it and not be blamed for the result.

Democrats and independents may grant no sympathy to GOP office holders who have to work with this administration, and that is fair. Whether governors and others deserve any sympathy is not my point.

You can tell a lot about someone from how he treats his enemies, but you can tell more by looking at how he treats his friends. The president does not treat his friends well. I cannot tell by looking that he treats them any better than his enemies.

Commentary on 10/21/2017

Print Headline: The clean-up crew

Sponsor Content