Ground Game

After the health bill failed, Trump plays the blame game

President Donald Trump.
Evan Vucci/Associated Press
President Donald Trump.

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More than 60 years ago, President Truman displayed this motto on his desk in the Oval Office: “The Buck Stops Here.”

This week, from his desk inside the same office, President Trump has embarked on a days-long evolving blame game -- in other words, the buck stops elsewhere.

Since US House Speaker Paul Ryan scrapped last week's vote on the Republican proposal to replace Obamacare, Trump has blamed different people for its demise, depending on the day.


From the Oval Office on Friday, Trump blamed Democrats. On Saturday, Trump asked people to watch a Fox News Channel show on which the host proclaimed, "Paul Ryan needs to step down as speaker of the House.” The next day, Trump moved on to blame the House Freedom Caucus for not passing the health care bill. 

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Of course, Trump isn't the first president to deflect blame. But in his short time in office, Trump has proven to be a deflector-in-chief.

When the news cycle isn’t going well, Trump has a knack for changing the conversation. He often does this by arguing he is a victim, such as his tweet that suggested without proof that former President Obama had illegally wiretapped Trump Tower during the election.

Yes, Trump could have done more to pass the GOP's health care bill. He never delivered a major speech. He never applied hard pressure to House Freedom Caucus members by talking to their donors and constituents in their districts. And when Trump did travel to Kentucky and Tennessee, his message on health care was buried in his speeches.

It should not concern Republicans so much that Trump is unwilling to accept blame. What should be concerning is his evolving pattern of blaming differing adversaries, depending on the day. This suggests Trump isn’t sure who should be his foil and how to govern going forward.

James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics:http://pages.email.bostonglobe.com/GroundGameSignUp