The Phantom Czar

By David Frum

On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s latest actions to combat the surge of deaths from opioid addiction.

They did not add up to big news. An additional $12 million in grants to local law enforcement. An internal restructuring of the Drug Enforcement Agency. An order to the 93 U.S. attorneys to designate one staff member as their office’s opioid coordinator.

The script for the otherwise ho-hum event contained praise for President Trump’s leadership and a thank-you to the senior-most White House aide in attendance. “I want to thank Kellyanne Conway for being here today. The president has made this a top priority for his administration—including every senior official and cabinet member—as her presence here today can attest.”

No news there either. Until Sessions decided to insert an apparently on-the-spot improvisation of his own. Trump, Sessions said off-the-cuff, had detailed Conway “to coordinate and lead the [anti-opioid] effort from the White House.”

Those words did make news. “Trump’s Counselor Kellyanne Conway is now Leading His Opioids Strategy,” headlined Buzzfeed at 5:19 p.m. Other media sources quickly followed: “Conway will oversee opioid epidemic response, Sessions said,” wrote Axios. “Kellyanne Conway is now America’s Opioid Czar,” announced New York.  “Kellyanne Conway chosen as Trump’s ‘opioids czar,” blared the The Washington Examiner.  “Three Things We Know About How Kellyanne Conway Will Handle Being Opioid Czar,” offered Quartz.

The Washington Post, more cautiously, omitted Conway from its headline about the event, but did write in the body of the story: “Kellyanne Conway, one of President Trump’s top advisers, has been tasked with overseeing White House initiatives to combat opioid abuse, Sessions said. She attended the announcement Wednesday, standing off to the side.”

On Thursday, The Daily Caller reported that Conway had told them there is no czar, and that Sessions …read more

Via:: The Atlantic


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