Drug industry swims in Washington's swamp
Well, that was quick. President Donald Trump announced Tuesday morning that his pick to be drug czar, Rep. Tom Marino, had withdrawn from consideration after media reports revealed his role in passing a new law that has eased opioid distribution.
Marino's departure seemed inevitable after the lukewarm endorsement President Trump gave him when questioned about the reports in a joint investigation by CBS' "60 Minutes" and the Washington Post. Trump called Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican, a "great guy" and a "very early supporter" of his. But he also said that if he found that Marino's appointment would hurt the fight against opioid addiction, he would "make a change."
The next morning, changes were made. No countercharges of "fake news" or "lying media." Trump moved swiftly to remove the problem and move on.
But not so fast. More than most of the controversies that have tested this president, the opioid crisis tragically plagues some of the most desperate communities in Trump's political base. To voters who turned in good faith to Trump's promises to "drain the swamp" in Washington, Trump's drain appeared to be clogged.
What makes this opioid-gate scoop into a scandal is how dramatically it illustrates the corruption and insider-dealing that gives Trump's swamp-draining talk so much traction with his rally crowds.
First, there's the cozy relationship between lobbyists and lawmakers.
The CBS-Post investigation found Marino and some other members of Congress who were allied with major drug distributors persuaded the Drug Enforcement Administration and Justice Department to agree to an industry-friendly law that passed in April last year.
The chief advocate for the new law, tagged with the benign title "Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act," was Marino, who president Trump has chosen to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, better known as "the drug czar."
Second, there's the lack of honesty in describing the new law to the public. Instead of improving drug enforcement, the new law weakened much of DEA's ability to stop the illegal flow of pain pills that often lead to overdoses from opioids, especially fentanyl and heroin.
The law makes it "virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies," robbing the DEA of an important tool to stop suspicious drug shipments immediately, said the Post.