Best columns: The U.S.
Calling a partisan truce
The New York Times
“You can find deeply footnoted legal arguments on both sides” of the Supreme Court case concerning a Colorado baker’s refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, said Ross Douthat. But politically, “our country would be better off if he were left alone to bake his cakes.” With our sprawling democracy deeply divided on race, religion, and culture, Americans increasingly fear that political defeat will leave their faction “routed and destroyed” by their adversaries. After same-sex marriage was legalized, my fellow religious conservatives worried that we’d become pariahs if we didn’t surrender our traditional beliefs on sex and marriage—that we’d lose our jobs, that our schools and charities would be fined and disaccredited. That’s one reason why so many evangelicals voted for “a celebrity strongman named Donald Trump.” Now it’s liberals who see existential threats in the administration’s every move, and conservatives who can’t understand “why blacks and Hispanics and Muslims might feel threatened by the new president.” This is unsustainable. Living together requires “compromise and magnanimity”—not forcing people different from us to submit to our will. “Please, for the sake of the country, leave the baker alone.”
Trump’s inaction on opioids
In the fight against the country’s devastating opioid epidemic, President Trump “is a no-show,” said Albert Hunt. Most of the 175 Americans who die each day from overdoses are from the “working-class and rural communities” that pushed Trump to election victory. Yet since his commission on the opioid crisis called for dramatic action in its report on Nov. 1, the president has sat on his hands. He hasn’t asked Congress for additional funding for desperately needed addiction treatment and prevention; in fact, he has endorsed GOP proposals to cut funding to Medicaid, which provides addiction treatment to the poor. Trump’s nominee to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino, had to withdraw after revelations he sponsored opioid legislation that Big Pharma essentially wrote; the president then named as his opioids “point person” White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway—a pollster and spin doctor with none of the required expertise. What’s Trump thinking? Mounting a serious battle against the opioid crisis would be a win-win—a bipartisan move that would garner him both great press and gratitude from his base. Yet the president seems to think declaring opioid addiction “a national emergency” will suffice.
A president’s health isn’t private
When Donald Trump goes for his first medical checkup as president early next year, we’ll probably be told that he’s in good health—and little else, said Olga Khazan. Presidents aren’t legally required to release full medical information, even though many past presidents have concealed serious illnesses from the public. Woodrow Wilson had a debilitating stroke in 1919 that his staff hid for two years. In 1944, doctors covered up Franklin Roosevelt’s deteriorating health in proclaiming him fit to serve—and he died a few months later. Many observers believe Ronald Reagan “began showing signs of Alzheimer’s long before he left office,” including episodes of confusion, forgetfulness, and more simplistic language. There is real reason to worry about Trump’s health: “He’s the oldest president ever elected,” is overweight, reportedly subsists on junk food and steaks, and avoids exercise. A study has shown a marked decline in his language complexity since the 1980s, and last week, Trump had an alarming episode of slurring during a speech about Israel. (His aides blamed “dry mouth.”) Shouldn’t every president be required to undergo a full medical exam every year, with all results fully disclosed to the public?