Here’s an idea: Declare the American opioid epidemic a health emergency. It’s not a very original idea, as people have been sounding the alarms on this crisis for years now. But when you’re president of the United States, such a declaration really can mean something. When you’re president of the United States, you can do more than talk. You can take action: Make existing funds available, reallocate priorities, send funds to the states for treatment, ask Congress for new money or new programs, ask the agencies for new regulations.
Or then again, you can just talk.
We have a president who, at least when it suits him, is content to just talk.
The opioid crisis is killing Donald Trump’s voters.
I have the kind of doctors who would be all over me if I started taking more painkillers than I need. But it is easy to see — painfully easy, if you’ll pardon me — just how quickly you can get addicted in America today if you don’t have the best health care, or even if you do. You can shop doctors. People do. And what is even clearer is if you don’t have good health care, it is easier to stay addicted than it is to find the help and support you need to get off and stay off.
The president’s declaration on the opioid epidemic isn’t even aiming to change anything. He didn’t request the allocation of any funds. While you can’t solve problems by throwing money at them, it’s even harder to solve them when there’s no help to be had.
If only he were so hapless when it came to impacting the environment.
Trump owes his own voters better. They, and their children, are suffering. Poor rural Americans are at risk for opioid addiction, along with veterans, and housewives and the kid next door.
Every day, people of every stripe shake their heads and ask, “What will it take?” We see and hear things we thought we’d never see: former President George W. Bush coming out to assail a successor of his own party; senior Republican senators openly and eloquently criticizing their president.
Ho-hum. Do they matter? Do the numbers inch down a crack or so? It is hard to see. Things like this are supposed to matter. In the Washington I grew up in, they would be huge deals — or, at least, everyone would act like they were huge deals, which might have made them so.
But Trump doesn’t let them. And if he doesn’t let them, why should anyone else?
So he declares a crisis with no funding. Let the liberals poke fun; Trump doesn’t care. He will laugh.
So you’ve got Republicans such as Bob Corker and Jeff Flake unloading on the president. Unheard of. But does it bother Trump? I’m sure he’s delighted they’re leaving: He doesn’t care what the Bush crowd has to say, or Bush himself, for that matter.
There is a new swamp king. And until someone figures out how to dislodge his base, until those who oppose him in Congress outnumber those who will not vote to oust him, there he sits. He lives for the division. Were the party united, he could not survive. Were the country united, it would be in opposition to him. By spinning political turmoil, he limits the ability of anyone or anything to gain traction against him.
It is sometimes terrifying to watch, as with North Korea, and sometimes just terrifyingly sad, as with the opioid epidemic.
Susan Estrich is a columnist, commentator and law and political science professor at USC.