WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and his vice president came out this past week with initiatives that are not as big, bold or immediate as they appeared.
Despite the drum-roll implied in Mike Pence’s recent remarks to Christians, the U.S. is not suddenly walking away from U.N. humanitarian relief programs and switching all that money directly to persecuted religious groups. And Trump’s action on the opioid epidemic counts on a powerful anti-drug punch from advertising, a feeble weapon at least in the past.
A look at their statements and other rhetoric from the week:
TRUMP on a planned ad campaign against the opioid epidemic: “I think that’s going to end up being our most important thing. Really tough, really big, really great advertising, so we get to people before they start.” — remarks Thursday.
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THE FACTS: He may prove history wrong, but past marketing efforts to scare young people from using drugs had poor results. More broadly, Trump’s declaration of opioid overdoses as a public health emergency is not as consequential as it might sound. It does not bring new dollars to the anti-opioids fight. It does make it easier for the government to shuffle resources and make other changes, such as expanding access to medical services in rural areas.
As for advertising, the government spent nearly $1 billion from 1998 to 2004 on a campaign to discourage illegal drug use by young people. A study financed by the National Institutes of Health concluded in 2008 that the campaign “had no favorable effects on youths’ behavior” and may have prompted some to experiment with drugs, an unintended “boomerang” effect.
A 2009 review of 20 studies of school-based D.A.R.E. programs found that students in the programs were about as likely to try drugs as those who didn’t. Founded in the early 1980s, D.A.R.E sent police officers into thousands of U.S. schools to warn about the dangers of drugs.
More recently, anti-drug campaigns have appealed to teenagers’ desire for independence and self-control rather than drug fears. A 2011 study of the government’s “Above the Influence” campaign suggested eighth-graders who had seen the campaign were slightly less likely to have tried marijuana than those who had not.
PENCE, on redirecting U.S. humanitarian foreign aid: “While faith-based groups with proven track records and deep roots in these communities are more than willing to assist, the United Nations too often denies their funding requests. My friends, those days are over. … . Tonight, it is my privilege to announce that President Trump has ordered the State Department to stop funding ineffective relief efforts at the United Nations. And from this day forward, America will provide support directly to persecuted communities through USAID.” — remarks Wednesday to a group helping Christians in the Middle East.
THE FACTS: “From this day forward” is a stretch, as are Pence’s other references to immediate change. The government is to study the matter. Studies take time, especially when multiple agencies are involved, and lead to conclusions that can’t always be foreseen at the start.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said not all U.N. relief programs would be cut off from U.S. financing. “The U.N. will still get some of its money for this, but we will look for other avenues in which to more efficiently fund these types of religious minorities so that they can eventually return back home,” Nauert said.
A White House official says the goal is to make sure necessary levels of relief are steered to persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East and as part of that, more grants will go directly to religious organizations and other groups. An analysis will be done by the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and the Office of Management and Budget, in conjunction with the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., “to determine how appropriated funds can best be spent,” the official said. This background was shared on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to be identified.
Also from this past week:
TRUMP: “Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran Deal & couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts….” And: “Corker dropped out of the race in Tennesse when I refused to endorse him, and now is only negative on anything Trump. Look at his record!” — tweets Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Trump, who spelled Tennessee right the first time, continues to label the Republican senator an enabler of the Iran nuclear deal when he was a leading critic of it. Corker had nothing to do with the 2015 international agreement forged by the U.S. and other world powers to constrain Iran’s ability to build a nuclear arsenal. He argued at the time that President Barack Obama should have made the international pact a treaty subject to approval by the Senate. When Obama didn’t do that, Corker helped fellow senators write legislation that subjected the accord to periodic congressional review. The legislation would have blocked the deal if that effort got enough votes. It didn’t. Obama brought the deal into effect, not Congress.
On Corker’s political fate, Trump actually urged Corker to stand for re-election next year during a private meeting in September, the AP learned. And Corker’s chief of staff, Todd Womack, said Trump called Corker after that to ask that he reconsider his decision to leave the Senate. Trump “reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times,” the aide said. Trump has not substantiated his competing claim that he withheld an endorsement of Corker and that’s why the senator decided to leave Washington.
Trump, on a contract landed by Boeing from Singapore Airlines: “In terms of the orders it’s about $13.8 billion and most importantly it’s about 70,000 jobs.” — at the signing of a “certificate of purchase” staged at the White House on Monday.
THE FACTS: Yes, but.
Boeing says the order will “sustain” more than 70,000 direct and indirect U.S. jobs for the company, its suppliers and others. The company did not say they were new jobs. The estimate of jobs and the value of the contract is based on full list price of the 39 planes Singapore Airlines has agreed to buy. Airlines routinely receive deep discounts from the list price of planes. So the contract, while unquestionably a big one, may end up worth less than $13.8 billion and have a less dramatic effect on employment than billed.
The contract wasn’t as new as it appeared: Singapore Airlines announced Feb. 9 that it signed a letter of intent to order the 39 planes from a U.S. manufacturer. Boeing booked the order in June but did not identify the buyer until this past week. Given the lengthy negotiations involved in airline purchases, it’s clear the order — announced by Singapore Airlines less than three weeks after Trump was sworn in — largely came together when Barack Obama was president. It’s unlikely either president had much to do with it.
Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Josh Lederman, Ken Thomas, Jill Colvin and Matthew Perrone in Washington and David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.
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