Mid-Day Digest

Aug. 27, 2019

THE FOUNDATION

“The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a primary object of its political cares.” —Alexander Hamilton (1787)

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IN TODAY’S EDITION

IN BRIEF

Opioid Ruling Won’t Solve the Addiction Crisis

In a landmark ruling Monday, Johnson & Johnson was ordered by an Oklahoma judge to pay $572 million in damages over its role in the opioid-addiction crisis in Oklahoma alone. Judge Thad Balkman agreed with Oklahoma GOP Attorney General Mike Hunter that Johnson & Johnson’s “misleading marketing and promotion of opioids created a nuisance” in the state, finding the company liable under more flexible public-nuisance laws rather than product-liability ones. Never mind that Johnson & Johnson accounts for about 1% of Oklahoma’s opioid market. Or that government regulators approved the drugs for sale only through government-approved pharmacies.

Oklahoma has also already reached an $85 million settlement with Teva and a $270 million settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma over opioids. But litigation is widespread. The Wall Street Journal notes, “More than 2,000 states and municipalities have sued opioid makers and distributors in federal litigation in Ohio. Another 250 or so have filed lawsuits in state courts where they hope local judges and juries will provide a more sympathetic audience.”

For years now, the U.S. has found itself facing a true opioid crisis. Tens of thousands of Americans are dying of overdoses each year — in numbers exceeding those killed in car crashes or by so-called “gun violence” (homicide and suicide, combined).

Who’s to blame? Two years ago, our Arnold Ahlert wrote:

The foundations of our current opioid crisis were laid back in the late 1990s. Pharmaceutical companies, doctors and government were all involved. Drug companies misleadingly promoted opioids to treat chronic pain, and government officials at different levels bought into that promotion, requiring insurance policies to cover the drugs. Government also pushed doctors to prescribe opioids via a “Pain as the Fifth Vital Sign” campaign run in the 1990s and 2000s.

Pharmaceutical companies are popular bogeymen. The compelling narrative is that faceless corporations are grossly profiting from the suffering of sick people. There is also serious cronyism afoot as “Big Pharma” tries to rig government regulation and interference in its favor and works in cahoots with insurance companies to determine what patient gets which drug and for how much.

But that’s a black-and-white view of a gray issue. American pharmaceutical companies are also doing the lion’s share of worldwide drug development. Research and development isn’t free, and the relatively few drugs that do make it to market after years of work and government hoops must cover resources put into the many drugs that don’t make it to market. Prices are controlled in other countries, so unfortunately the American consumer bears the brunt of the cost.

As for addicts, well, it’s complicated. A patient who takes more than the prescribed dosage only to find himself addicted and seeking the next high bears responsibility for himself. Doctors who prescribe 30 days of opioids when three days and some Ibuprofen will do likewise own some blame. And now we have tort lawyers and power-grabbing attorneys general swooping in to increase their money or power as a result of a crisis. Bankrupting America’s pharmaceutical companies won’t put a dent in the profits of your local meth or fentanyl dealer.

On a final note, it’s worth mentioning that $200 million from Purdue’s settlement will go to the National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment at Oklahoma State University, where AG Hunter’s son is employed. Another $60 million went to trial lawyers. Again, the word cronyism comes to mind.

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Trump’s Rope-a-Dope Negotiation Strategy

President Donald Trump has rarely been precise in his use of language. Hyperbole and broad generalizations regularly pepper his descriptive and often longwinded meandering comments on almost every subject. This aspect of Trump’s communication style has been what has produced the most criticism and consternation from his political and media opponents — and even many friends. Following the collapse of the Russian collusion narrative, the Leftmedia shifted its anti-Trump strategy to focus on Trump’s communication style with the goal of painting him as essentially crazy. Yet Trump’s communication style hasn’t suddenly changed. Like it or not, he communicates in the same manner as he did before he was elected.

It’s no secret that leftists oppose Trump and are constantly angling for different means by which to take him down. So, why does it often appear that Trump seemingly plays right into their hands? Why is Trump not more careful with his words? Has he not yet learned?

We’ve noted it before, but it bears repeating. Listen to what Trump means, not what he says. This is easier said than done. There’s no question that Trump has made contradictory statements and that he has said offensive things. He has lavished near-effusive praise on tyrannical dictators and strongmen like Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin, while at other times he has thrown some of his own people under the proverbial bus for inconsequential and petty disputes. At times he has made comments that have risen to the level of the noblest of statesmen, and at other times he has gone low, throwing out schoolyard insults.

Why does Trump behave this way? Is he really just crazy, as the Leftmedia insists? Ironically, in its coverage of Monday’s press conference in France following the G7 summit, The Washington Post stumbled across the answer. Asked about the ongoing trade war with China and his comments that he only wished he would have raised tariffs higher, Trump stated, “Sorry, it’s how I negotiate. It’s been very successful over the years.”

It’s Trump’s rope-a-dope method. Throw out contradictory statements, rhetorical bombs, and effusive praise combined with a good measure of hyperbole and repetition. This invites his opponents to attack a perceived weakness. Then Trump continues to feign bravado to encourage his opponents to attack — and by so doing they expose themselves and their weakness. Trump’s not afraid to take glancing blows, and in fact he often welcomes them. His goal is to pull his opponents onto his playing field where he then has the advantage.

If you look beyond Trump’s style of communication, you’ll see how effective he has been at getting his agenda accomplished. It may often look like Trump is surrounded by chaos of his own making, but in reality this serves as his cover. When your opponent regularly underestimates you, you’re in the perfect position to take advantage.

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ON OUR WEBSITE TODAY

BEST OF RIGHT OPINION

For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.

TOP NEWS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

BLUE-STATE OBSTRUCTION: “A coalition of 20 Democratic attorneys general announced Monday they are suing to block the administration’s new rules that would allow immigrant families who are in the U.S. illegally to be detained while their deportation hearings are taking place. The 19 states and the District of Columbia said they are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of children at detention facilities inside their boundaries, so they have standing to sue in order to protect their health.” (The Washington Times)

PURSUING THE DEATH PENALTY: “Federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh said Monday that they intend to seek the death penalty against the man accused of gunning down 11 people at a synagogue last year,” NBC News reports. As our Mark Alexander revealed at the time, the suspect “was inspired, in part, because Donald Trump is the most PRO-Israel president since Ronald Reagan.”

IRAN OLIVE BRANCH: On Monday, President Donald Trump declared, “If the circumstances were correct or right, I would certainly agree to” meeting Iran President Hassan Rouhani. He added, “But in the meantime, they have to be good players.” Rouhani is currently not being a good player. According to The Daily Caller, “Iran’s parliament is preparing a bill to sanction top Trump administration officials and their supporters in Congress for what regime officials described as ‘their long animosity towards Iran.’” Rouhani also personally responded, “First the U.S. should act by lifting all illegal, unjust and unfair sanctions imposed on Iran.”

AND THEN THERE WERE THREE: Presidential candidate Joe Biden is an indisputable frontrunner no more, according to Monmouth University polling. In a new survey, “Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and … Biden are currently bunched together in the national Democratic presidential preference contest. … The poll finds a virtual three-way tie among Sanders (20%), Warren (20%), and Biden (19%) in the presidential nomination preferences of registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters across the country. Compared to Monmouth’s June poll, these results represent an increase in support for both Sanders (up from 14%) and Warren (up from 15%), and a significant drop for Biden (down from 32%).”

ANOTHER REPUBLICAN BITES THE DUST: “Wisconsin GOP Rep. Sean Duffy on Monday abruptly announced plans to resign from Congress, saying his family recently learned that his soon-to-be born child has a serious heart condition. Duffy … is the father of eight children, with another due in October.” (Fox News)

FEC RESIGNATION: “The Republican vice chairman of the Federal Election Commission resigned Monday, leaving the election oversight agency without enough members to vote on enforcement actions. Matthew S. Petersen [said] that he submitted his letter of resignation … to the White House Monday morning. It said that he will leave the agency by the end of the week. ‘It’s just the right time,’ said Petersen, who has won wide praise for his steady and thoughtful approach to election issues, his dedication to the First Amendment, and battles to fend off the regulation of technology and the internet.” (Washington Examiner)

POLICY: The proof is in: Tariffs are hurting the U.S. economy (The Daily Signal)

POLICY: Purchasing a gun from Walmart is not nearly as easy as the Left claims (The New American)

HUMOR: Obama slams greedy rich people from his new $15 million Martha’s Vineyard estate (Genesius Times)

For more of today’s editors’ choice headlines, visit In Our Sights.

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OPINION IN BRIEF

Cal Thomas: “San Francisco, a city described in song for its natural beauty, is descending into an abyss of homelessness, the use of sidewalks as toilets and a place you might not want to visit, much less live. The latest, but surely not the last demonstration of insanity, is San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors’ adoption of new ‘person first’ language guidelines meant to ‘change the public’s perception of criminals.’ The words ‘convicted felon,’ ‘offender,’ ‘convict,’ ‘addict’ and ‘juvenile delinquent’ are now out. These individuals will henceforth be referred to as a ‘justice-involved person.’ Someone previously called a ‘criminal’ will now be referred to as ‘a returning resident,’ or ‘a formerly incarcerated person.’ … In our muddled language and culture, one dare not suggest anyone has done anything wrong lest negative labels be attached to them. Such labels are unevenly applied. The political left often retains them to attack the right, but should the right seek to use words that accurately describe the conduct or status of another they are condemned as old-fashioned, rigid, judgmental, or worse. … Instead of applying euphemisms, San Francisco should be seeing to the homeless … and the filthy streets that now require maps so people can avoid stepping in human waste. Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but the city seems to lost its mind there too.”

SHORT CUTS

Insight: “We are sure living in a peculiar time. You get more for not working than you will for working, and more for not raising a hog than for raising it.” —Will Rogers (1879-1935)

For the record: “[Bernie Sanders] promises 20 million ‘good-paying, unionized jobs.’ Only about 6.1 million people are unemployed in the United States.” —The Washington Post editorial board

Quasi-broken clock: “Trump voters are not deplorable. They are not racist and they are not bad people, but they were misled.” —ex-Obama aide Johanna Maska

The BIG Lie: “With the people of Honduras and Guatemala and El Salvador, reduce violence in their home communities, violence which we are somewhat to blame for. … Guatemala [is] suffering one of the greatest droughts in their recorded history, caused not by God nor by Mother Nature but by you and me and all of us in our emissions and our excess and our inaction in the face of the facts and the science and the truth.” —Beto O'Rourke

Digging your own grave: “I want to be clear, I’m not going nuts.” —Joe Biden

Braying Jackass: “Maybe [Trump] wants to curry [Vladimir Putin’s] favor to ensure he gets help again in 2020 as he did in 2016 from the Russians.” —James Clapper

Belly laugh of the week: “If Putin outsmarted anybody, it’s not President Obama.” —CNN’s Don Lemon

Village idiots: “We’re a democracy — at least, we’re supposed to be — where you’re allowed to disagree, dissent, debate. I really think that [Trump] thinks this is an autocracy.” —Taylor Swift

And last… “Planned Parenthood is planning on spending $20 million on the 2020 elections to elect Democrats. If they have that kind of spare cash, why … are we subsidizing them?” —Charlie Kirk

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