There were 72,000 deaths from drug overdoses last year, but let’s talk about something else: about Michael Cohen and his paying off two women in 2016 not to talk about sex with Donald Trump, and how this is the most important thing in the world right now. It isn’t. For Trump, it is probably not a crime at all, surely not an impeachable offense, but the hype is as big as the grins.
It’s the top of the news and tragically disruptive of the ordinary, crucial functioning of government, just as the special counsel investigation of Russian collusion — where did that go? — has been from the start. To see how such disruption can work to national detriment, let’s travel backward from Trump, Barack Obama and George Bush to Bill Clinton. In his second term, he had figured out that Social Security was going to generate a major crisis without the proper adjustments and was kept from doing anything about it by the Monica Lewinsky crisis.
Impeachment was looking Clinton in the face. It was the chief focus of Washington attention, and for him to immerse himself in a political controversy was unthinkable. Here was someone with the charm, negotiating prowess, knowledge and explicatory gifts to get crucial reforms enacted, but not in these circumstance and not with the tall tales of such reforms cheating and torturing recipients
What we had in the demagogic resistance was by far the biggest threat to Social Security and sister programs and their recipients and a definite threat to a sustainable budget and workable national economy. When Clinton’s less personally empowered successor moved bravely and intelligently for positive change, he was flattened. We can say, look, there were serious charges against Clinton, but an important good was defeated by this pointlessly prolonged, politically exacerbated fight that was never going to end in his eviction from office.
In the assault on Trump, we have had felonious leaks from intelligence agencies, all kinds of resignations, firings, demotions and reprimands in a politically zealous Justice Department still refusing to do what the Constitution says: give Congress the requested facts about possibly illicit anti-Trump connivance. On top of all of this, we have had the diminution of focus on issues counting for much more, such as the opioid epidemic decimating our white working class.
Trump has some good points on this issue, such as stopping the smuggling of heroin from Mexico and fentanyl from China, but he goes awry with his call for death penalties for the sellers. Analyses tell us how doctors need to be more careful with prescriptions, but there is terrible pain to deal with, and when the prescriptions stop heroin abuse begins. There’s an antidote to overdose fatalities, we learn, but overdoses follow overdoses and more is needed, such as rehab that just can’t reach all in need. Localities and community groups have done noble work, but the number of abusers keeps going up and so much more is crucial — including more national attention.
It’s hardly as if the issue and others of major importance have been misplaced, but everything right now is overshadowed by the anti-Trump movement, not least of all the extraordinary results of his deregulation and tax reform measures. There are those who refuse to give him any credit despite all kinds of empirical evidence, and those who maybe don’t see how a better economy also combats social problems, enabling the depressed and destitute to find rescue in jobs instead of drugs.
I share many of the misgivings of those upset about Trump’s scatter-brained, low-brow behavior past and present, but he was duly elected, many of his policies have merit, the impeachment case against him actually appears weaker instead of stronger despite what some would have you believe and it’s time to focus more on such issues as 72,000 deaths by way of drug overdoses a year.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.