President Donald Trump has one extremely laudable, consistently present quality that even his most ardent critics should acknowledge.
The characteristic is among the most steadfast aspects of Trump’s personality. It’s derived from grief, regret, and perhaps a bit of guilt surrounding a painful family fact; the early death of his older brother due to alcoholism.
Freddy Trump Jr. died in 1981 at the age of 43.
Addiction may well be President Trump’s soft spot.
All indicators suggest that he understands it in ways that belie his usual rush to judgmental name-calling and knee-jerk decision-making.
Here’s how Trump spoke of alcoholism in a 2015 interview: “I’ve known so many people that were so strong and so powerful (yet) they were unable to stop drinking.”
There was a glimpse of that emphatic insight — addiction as a disease, not a weakness — this week when the administration waded into vaping, with Trump announcing efforts to ban the teenager-enticing, fruity-flavored e-cigarettes.
But Trump prompted social media jeers when his intentions on e-cigarettes were quickly conflated with the issue that is far more dominant and studied as a public health risk — the rising body count from mass shootings and other forms of gun violence.
When Trump spoke on Sept. 11, six people had died of lung illnesses believed to be related to vaping.
An additional 450 Americans have fallen ill in more than 30 states. Health officials suspect that the most serious lung cases are tied to people vaping THC, the chemical that gives marijuana its potency.
And yet, it’s relevant that every day in America, nearly 100 people are shot to death in homicides, accidents or suicides.
Gun violence is a verified, longstanding, multilayered public health risk.
So people reacted strongly to the Trump administration’s prompt, all-in approach to the little understood threat of e-cigarettes. Especially since Washington appears unwilling to tackle the issues of gun violence and firearms.
On Sept. 9, the FDA went after market leader Juul, accusing the company of illegally marketing the product as a safe alternative to smoking.
On Sept. 10, Kansas reported the sixth American death tied to vaping. A day later, Trump was in the Oval Office announcing the plan to ban flavored e-cigarettes, a move that will be met with industry resistance.
Can’t we have a government that can walk and chew gum at the same time — without having to pit causes against each other?
Congress has before it several very strong bills that fit the definition of what most reasonable people would term common-sense gun reforms; red flag laws and closing background check loopholes for obtaining guns through private sales, for example.
Limiting teenager’s access to a relatively new product on the market might appear to be an easier lift, less of a political minefield.
Watching a beloved sibling succumb to a powerful addiction could certainly help a person recognize an emerging threat faster.
Freddy Trump was eight years his brother’s senior. By family order, he should have stepped into the family real estate business first. Instead, he wanted to be a pilot.
Trump addressed the family tensions, the pressures of their domineering father as far back as 1987, in his book, “The Art of the Deal.”
The entry is scant, a mere page, but Trump expresses regret for how he goaded his older brother for his reluctance toward real estate.
“Along the way, I think Freddy became discouraged, and he started to drink, and that led to a downward spiral,” the book says.
Trump describes his brother warmly, noting his zest for life, his likability, the opposite, the future president admits, of his own aggressive demeanor.
Empathy and prompt action for those fighting addiction, sure, but mass shootings have become commonplace in this country — women, men, children dying in our streets.
How about a little empathy for that too?
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Writes for Tribune Content Agency.