On Friday, March 24, despite seven years of promises to their activist base, the Republicans gave up on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act following a short, tumultuous three-week negotiation. Unless the party someday returns to the issue, it'll go down as one of the biggest broken promises in modern political history. And as President Trump answered for the failure in an address from the Oval Office, a photographer nabbed an image that pretty much says it all: this photo of Trump, Pence, and HHS Secretary Tom Price.
The photo shows an intricate and fascinating scene, to put it mildly. On one side, you've got the relatively stoic and sour-faced Vice President Pence, looking appropriately gloomy on a hugely dire day for his party. On the other, you've got Price, the similarly nonplussed leader of the Department of Health and Human Services, also a longtime foe of the ACA.
And in the middle you've got Trump himself ― who Republicans kept calling "the closer" and praising as a master negotiator throughout the week ― looking slightly vexed as he tries to explain away the whole mess. It's the "a picture's worth a thousand words" idiom in action, telling a more comprehensive story than you might think possible.
Pence, in particular, is frowning hard, and looks like he's burning a hole in the back of Trump's head with his eyes. Price, on the other hand ― who was widely regarded as one of the congressional GOP's staunchest Obamacare critics ― simply stares with a slight grimace. And Trump appears, at the very least, to be mid-pitch. A pitch to the nation which he began by asserting it'd be politically advantageous to him if the existing health care system failed.
That's the exact sort of thing politicians are typically not supposed to say out loud, and you have to imagine a pair old old political hands like Price and Pence know that ― Price served as a representative from Georgia for 12 years, and Pence was both an Indiana representative, and then the state's governor.
Suffice to say the two look a bit more burdened by the moment than Trump does, and that makes some sense. After all, he's clearly more animated about tax reform and trade issues than health care, so maybe he's just happy to move things along. For the true conservative health care diehards, however, there's no such luck.