Look, not going to begin to defend the president’s reported utterances. To borrow from another president, “wouldn’t be prudent.” Jim Geraghty made the point best:
The message from the president — and the subsequent refusal to deny, retract, or disavow the comments — is clear: People from these places have no value.
However, two things to keep in mind. The president’s words and actions are often at odds with each other, and even when they are not, they can be taking quite different paths. My father was prone to horrifically bigoted statements; cringe-inducing, deny him like Peter-at-the-cross bigoted statements. But that being said I can say quite confidently that I never saw my father treat another human being as if they were of little or no value, talked about them like they were, but never, ever treated them that way. Does that excuse the words? Nope, not even close – but it does put them into perspective.
The second thing to keep in mind is this extraordinarily great piece yesterday from David French. David writes about the opiod epidemic in this nation and notes that for two consecutive years, and probably three based on 2017 preliminaries, that life expectancy in this nation has declined – yes declined – and that the decline can largely be laid at the feet of opiod overdoses. He quotes a Washington Post story:
The 2016 data shows that just three major causes of death are responsible: unintentional injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and suicides, with the bulk of the difference attributable to the 63,632 people who died of overdoses. That total was an increase of more than 11,000 over the 52,404 who died of the same cause in 2015.
He then goes on to discuss how, despite some great writing on the subject, the issue gets little general interest. Later in the piece French says, “Addiction is life-destroying, yes, but it’s also soul-destroying,” which is true, but I think becoming addicted to begin with represents a soul already severely damaged.
Put these three things together, 1) a clearly uncompassionate, imprudent and indefensible presidential utterance, 2) an extraordinary national health crisis based almost solely in behavior, and 3) the under-reporting of item 2), and a picture of a nation with a pretty damaged soul comes clearly into focus. I have always contended that national elections are mirrors into the soul of the nation. The president’s ugly utterance does in fact mirror the relative lack of concern over the opiod crisis.
This is not a pretty picture.