Jay Am­brose: The high cost of in­ves­ti­ga­tory overkill

Calhoun Times - - FRONT PAGE -

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 scat­ter­brained, 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.

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