BOSTON (CBS) – Watching the feed of President Trump’s much-touted speech in Manchester, NH on intensifying the fight against opioid abuse was a good news/bad news experience.
The good news is that Mr. Trump continues to put the spotlight on the opioid crisis, and some positive steps – like stepped-up policing of online drug sales and potential litigation against irresponsible drug companies – are being taken.
The bad news – this speech was riddled with misrepresentations and dubious ideas.
“We will be spending the most money ever on the opioid crisis,” he vowed. But for now that’s just rhetoric.
Almost all of the opioid spending in the Trump era has come from bills approved before he took office. And in New Hampshire, one of the state’s largest non-profit drug treatment and recovery providers recently had to close four of its five centers due to a lack of state and federal funding.
“My commission on combatting the incredible crisis of opioids issued 56 recommendations,” said the president. “My administration agreed with all of the commission’s goals and we’ve worked aggressively to put them into action.”
That’s not true. Only a few of their recommendations issued more than five months ago have been implemented, and a member of the commission, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, has called the follow-through a “sham.”
And within moments of praising the commission, Mr. Trump appeared to disparage it.
“We can have all the blue-ribbon committees we want, but if we don’t get tough on the drug dealers we’re wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty.”
That was a big applause line; big-time drug dealers have few fans. But the average death-penalty case costs millions to prosecute, and extending capital punishment to drug traffickers will face major legal challenges. If there’s proof it will deter the flood of opioids, we haven’t seen it.
And another pledge rang hollow – that we will be “spending a lot of money on great commercials showing how bad it is, so that kids seeing those commercials during the right shows on TV or wherever, the internet, when they see these commercials they’ll say I don’t want any part of it.”
They’ll just say no? Study after study showed the same approach back in the 1980’s just didn’t work, and the approach doesn’t synch with what professionals say are the root causes of opioid abuse.
Perhaps the most demoralizing part of the president’s presentation on a topic that ought to be the ultimate bipartisan issue was his inability to refrain from mixing in his familiar red-meat rhetoric on immigration, disparaging so-called “sanctuary cities” and falsely claiming that Democrats don’t want to save the Dreamers. Call this NH road trip an opportunity squandered.