“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast,” President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday. “We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!” The entire day, he tweeted about individual members of the caucus, calling them out by name, urging others to defeat them in November, and comparing them to Democrats.
And with that series of tweets, Trump is now engaged in a full scale, public war with the conservative Freedom Caucus. Characteristically, little restraint is apparent in his approach. While the president has never been hesitant to attack, he's always described himself as a counter-puncher; someone who hits back twice as hard when someone lashes out at him. But this is different.
There is history here, which Freedom Caucus member Rep. Raul Labrador recalled this week in a message to the President. "Freedom Caucus stood with u when others ran,” he tweeted. “Remember who your real friends are. We're trying to help u succeed."
He's right. When others ran for the hills, Freedom Caucus members stood by then-candidate Trump. When Trump promised repeatedly to repeal ObamaCare, the Freedom Caucus reiterated those promises. An implicit arrangement existed: the Freedom Caucus would be there, waiting on Capitol Hill, ready to help the soon-to-be president "drain the swamp.”
@realDonaldTrump Freedom Caucus stood with u when others ran. Remember who your real friends are. We're trying to help u succeed.— Raúl R. Labrador (@Raul_Labrador) March 30, 2017
After President TrumpDonald TrumpPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump MORE took office, however, he didn’t follow through with his promise to repeal ObamaCare; he backed the Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow Kevin McCarthy sold his soul to Donald Trump On The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood Stopping the next insurrection MORE plan which many mocked as “ObamaCare-lite.” The Freedom Caucus didn’t openly criticize the president. Why? Perhaps they felt that he’d just been bamboozled by the wonkish Speaker, into believing that this heaping mess of government controlled healthcare really was a repeal. We may never know why they held their fire, but that's exactly what they did.
Which brings us to the real mystery: Why did President Trump throw a very brutal first punch against seemingly his staunchest allies in Congress? Why the break in the normal Trump pattern?
Psychological analysis is way above my pay grade, and certainly not within my qualifications. I'm just a grassroots activist that spends the great majority of time with similar activists all over the country. Most of what I know, I learn from them, and they are wondering the same thing. And even more importantly, "why alienate your base; people who mostly love what the Freedom Caucus is doing in stopping this steaming pile of not-repealing ObamaCare?"
Here's the best conclusion we've reached. He's pissed off. Really pissed off. He made a mistake and decided to bet on the wrong horse. He cast his lot with Speaker Ryan, not because he cared what was in the bill, but because Ryan told the president he could get it done. More than anything, Trump's wants to be known as a man who gets things done.
When Trump was misled by Ryan (who never had the votes) he simply couldn’t admit he was wrong. Instead, he blames, and the easiest target is the Freedom Caucus. He can easily say they stopped him from "getting something done." And so, with all of the politicos wondering why the president is doing what he’s doing, it may come down to this very puerile fact: he's angry and trying to protect his reputation.
This is his fundamental mistake. The people didn't send Trump to D.C. to "get something done." The people sent Trump to D.C. to blow up the status quo, "drain the swamp," "repeal ObamaCare," and "build the wall." We don’t want want him to "get something done," we want him to get the right things done.
Hopefully, the president will soon learn from his mistake and will once again turn to the Freedom Caucus as his only true supporters on Capitol Hill. Without them, he's going to have a very lonely four years, and his biggest fear — being known the guy who can’t get things done — will become a self-fulfilling legacy.