It’s more than 100 days into his administration, and Donald Trump—the master businessman, the expert negotiator—is still operating with a partial team.
As Politico pointed out last month, the man who promised Americans to fix tax policy and undo Obama-era regulations hasn’t quite gotten around to appointing a leader tasked with either job. With Syria burning and America’s remaining Middle East allies cozying up to Iran and Russia, there are hundreds of unfilled positions in the State Department.
And with stronger-than-ever opiates killing more people than ever in the very states that handed him the keys of government, Trump has no coherent drug policy to speak of—aside from the ominous-yet-vague pledge during his debatably-attended inauguration speech to do something about it.
This bellicose aimlessness will continue for the foreseeable future, after Trump reportedly had second thoughts on his initial choice for drug czar.
As U.S. News’ Steven Nelson first reported, U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, an early Trump supporter with a questionable past (even for a Trump guy), is no longer in the running to lead the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The White House did not say why Marino was out of the running for the job, and a staffer for the congressman declined to comment to U.S. News.
Trump, recall, had initially suggested that the ONDCP, which sets much of the federal agenda on anti-drug education campaigns and interdiction efforts, should be cut. Not quite the thing to do during a drug crisis.
So, Marino’s name was first floated for the post in a CBS News report on April 11. The choice immediately sparked a backlash.
Marino had received sizable campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry and repaid the largesse by working for the country’s opiate lobby and against efforts to reduce the amount of prescription pills in America. He also spoke warmly of sending drug users to “hospital prisons,” where they’d remain under armed guard to receive treatment—and reliably opposed every effort in Congress to weaken federal prohibitions on marijuana, despite his own constituents approving medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.
Somehow, his pre-congressional record as a prosecutor was even worse.
He was accused of going judge-shopping in the late 1990s to secure an expungement for a friend convicted of cocaine charges. And in 2006, he was forced to resign from a position as a U.S. attorney after he served as a reference for a convicted felon who wanted to open up a casino. Even that was rewarded, as Marino secured a $250,000-a-year job working for the felon, the Associated Press reported.
So now what? Other than confirming Marino is out, the leaky White House hasn’t yet made a statement attributed to an anonymous staffer, which suggests that Team Trump has absolutely no idea what to do next.
“The tide of public opinion is turning against the drug war and Trump would be wise to nominate a drug czar who supports reform, including treating drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue,” said Bill Piper, senior director of the office of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, which led a campaign opposing Marino from the moment his name was mentioned. “The next drug czar doesn’t have to be a scientist or have an extensive medical background to be effective, but they should understand science and take an evidence-based approach towards drug policy.”
That would be smart.
But considering Trump’s pick to solve the opiate crisis, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, recently declared marijuana legalization was a leftist plot on the level of water fluoridation, prepare for the usual outrage and disappointment.