Is President Trump serious about dealing with America’s opioid crisis?
In case you missed it, he’s put Kellyanne Conway in charge
As the New York Times recently described:
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, has no public health background, a reputation for bending the truth, and a knack for generating government ethics complaints. Yet Ms. Conway does have the ear of the president.
Despite her resume, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Wednesday that Conway would oversee the administration’s efforts to fight the opioid drug problem. This would seem to be a near-perfect fit in that the Trump administration has so far done so little:
As Congress gears up for the 2018 spending debate this month, the president’s 2018 budget request would increase addiction treatment funding by less than 2 percent, even including $500 million already appropriated by Congress in 2016 under the 21st Century Cures Act. In October, Mr. Trump declared a national public health emergency, which sounded important, but didn’t free up any significant new money. The White House has named no permanent director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy since Mr. Trump withdrew his nomination, Representative Tom Marino, Republican of Pennsylvania — after it emerged that Mr. Marino had helped drug wholesalers make it harder for the Drug Enforcement Administration to crack down on black-market opioid distribution.
The best argument for why Conway, following Marino, may be the right person for the job comes from David Frum, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, writing in The Atlantic:
The Trump administration has no opioid policy, beyond just continuing to arrest people who violate the (lax) existing drug laws. Throughout, Trump has treated the opioid tragedy as a messaging challenge, not a real-world disaster that calls for a real-world response: pretend to care while doing nothing, because the administration lacks the competence and capacity to do something. The idea that it would seek to appoint as head of the Office of National Drug Control the single member of the House of Representatives who did most to worsen the opioid crisis had a beautiful fitness to it.
So maybe after all Kellyanne Conway would be the right person for the “opioid czar” job. Trump’s concern for opioids is a cruelly deceptive fiction. And who propagates cruelly deceptive fictions more persistently and brazenly than Conway?