Since declaring America's opioid crisis an emergency in October, President Donald Trump has done little to treat the problem as such but plenty to show it is not a high priority:
And as of January, Trump had failed to provide funding for the commission charged with addressing the crisis - a commission that Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy called "essentially a sham".
Now, according to Politico, Kellyanne Conway is choosing political staff over drug policy professionals in a weak attempt to combat a drug crisis that is claiming about 175 American lives every day.
Trump is expected to propose massive cuts this month to the “drug czar” office, just as he attempted in last year’s budget before backing off. He hasn’t named a permanent director for the office, and the chief of staff was sacked in December. For months, the office’s top political appointee was a 24-year-old Trump campaign staffer with no relevant qualifications. Its senior leadership consists of a skeleton crew of three political appointees, down from nine a year ago.
The office’s acting director, Rich Baum, who had served in the office for decades before Trump tapped him as the temporary leader, has not been invited to Conway’s opioid cabinet meetings, according to his close associates. His schedule, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request, included no mention of the meetings.
Two political staff members from Baum's office attended the meetings in his stead.
The fact that Conway landed in this position is confusing to many as well, due to her lack of background in drug policy:
Among the people working on the public education campaign that Trump promised is Andrew Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani’s 32-year-old son, who is a White House public liaison and has no background in drug policy, multiple administration sources told POLITICO. Nor has Conway spent her career in the anti-opioid trenches.
“Kellyanne Conway is not an expert in this field,” said Andrew Kessler, the founder of Slingshot Solutions, a consulting group that’s worked on substance abuse with many federal agencies. “She may be a political operative and a good political operative,” he added. “But look. When you appoint a secretary of Labor, you want someone with a labor background. When you appoint a secretary of Defense, you want someone with a defense background. The opioid epidemic needs leadership that ‘speaks’ the language of drug policy.”