We’re now about 24 hours removed from him telling the prime minister of Australia that their health-care system, which is single-payer, is better than ours, and the online hot takes just keep on coming. Is it possible that Trump is familiar with Australia’s system and admires it because it’s single-payer? Well, yes. Is it likely? No. This is a guy who wondered aloud not five days ago why no one ever seems to wonder what caused the Civil War. If he hasn’t made it to that page yet in his history textbook, he probably hasn’t read the chapter comparing insurance systems in Anglosphere countries either.
The point of praising Australia, very obviously, wasn’t to hype “Medicare for all” programs. The point was to take a rhetorical dump on ObamaCare. All he’s saying is that literally anything is better than America’s status quo, a message that’s useful to him and the GOP as they gear up to replace O-Care with an insurance system to be named later.
Reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders (filling in for Sean Spicer) at today’s briefing about Trump’s comment last night. What Sanders said: “I think he was simply being complimentary of the prime minister and I don’t think it was anything more than that… What works in Australia may not work in the United States.” What Sanders wanted to say: “C’mon, Trump always blows smoke up people’s asses when he’s trying to make nice with them. Complimenting Australia’s health-care system was as meaningful to him as complimenting Malcolm Turnbull’s tie. The point in both cases is unctuous personal flattery.” This is why they pay PR pros the big bucks.
Here’s Sanders deflecting a question about the Australia exchange followed by Bernie Sanders cracking up laughing last night at the spectacle of Trump telling someone who oversees a socialized-medicine system that he’s got a better set-up than we do. Odds that Trump will sign a public option into law before leaving office if he serves two times: 70 percent.