On Thursday, Donald Trump spoke publicly to declare the opioid crisis in the United States a public health emergency. He had campaigned on declaring the epidemic a ‘national emergency,’ which is crucially different from a ‘public health emergency.’ Declaring the crisis a ‘national emergency’ would give the OK to access FEMA’s $23 billion disaster relief budget to fight it. As it stands, a ‘public health emergency’ allows access to a fund with $57,000. So he gave the illusion of fulfilling a campaign promise without actually doing it.
This is still a pretty big step because it acknowledges the severity of the problem. Last year there were 64,000 drug overdose deaths reported in the United States and opioids were the highest percentage of that. This isn’t just an American problem either. In Canada, there were 2,458 drug-related deaths in 2016 and the NDP is encouraging the federal Liberal government to follow the U.S. and declare a state of emergency. Yes, our number is drastically smaller, but the population of the United States is also nine times larger than ours.
A moment that stood out in Donald Trump’s speech was when he mentioned his older brother, Fred Trump Jr., who died in 1984 at the age of 43 as a result of his life-long alcoholism. In a surprisingly heartfelt moment, Trump talked about looking up to his older brother and how he learned from him how toxic a life of addiction can be. It is because of Fred that Donald has never touched a drink.
‘I had a brother, Fred. Great guy, best-looking guy, best personality, much better than mine,’ he began, ‘But he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol, and he would tell me, ‘Don’t drink. Don’t drink.’ He was substantially older, and I listened to him and I respected.’
‘He really helped me,’ he said, ‘I had somebody that guided me. And he had a very, very, very tough life because of alcohol, believe me, a very, very tough, tough life. He was a strong guy but it was a tough, tough thing that he was going through. But I learned because of Fred. I learned.’
According to a profile in the New York Times, though Fred was eight years Donald’s senior, he was constantly berated by his younger brother to quit drinking and take the family business seriously. Fred was more easygoing than most of the Trump clan and less interested in business. He eventually became a pilot and flew for Trans World Airlines.
Trump told the NYT that in retrospect, he sees that Fred’s passion was never for business and says he would have encouraged him to pursue what he loved. He spoke fondly of his brother and says that if it weren’t for his struggle with addiction, he could have been great.
‘He would have been an amazing peacemaker if he didn’t have the problem because everybody loved him,’ he said, ‘He’s like the opposite of me.’
While this seems like a rare humanizing moment for Donald Trump, it should also be noted that he didn’t show any mercy when it came to Fred’s remaining family. According to the NYT story, when Fred Sr. (Donald’s father) died in 1999, he divided his estate between his children ‘other than my son Fred C. Trump.’ That meant that Fred’s children would not receive anything, though his son (Fred III) claimed that there was an earlier version of the will that included them and sued the Trump siblings for taking advantage of their father’s dementia and encouraging him to change it.
During that whole mess, Fred III’s wife gave birth to their son who developed cerebral palsy. When the baby was born, Donald offered to cover the medical bills, but retracted his offer once the will drama played out.
So it would seem Donald Trump thinks of his brother fondly, but in the end, he’s still Donald Trump.
— Jim Stengel (@stengel_jim) October 27, 2017