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Worry more about the lives lost than the words used

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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and President Trump jousted over the border wall in a heated private telephone conversation a week after his inauguration. Of course, it was leaked. (Courtesy photo)

After three days of bombast over President Trump's New Hampshire's a "drug infested den" comment it's time to take a step back and reflect on the unsavory nature of the comment with a grain of salt.

Trump made the comments during a blunt conversation with the Mexican president regarding the border wall over who would pay for it.

It should be noted - and probably wasn't on most of the liberal news outlets - that the transcripts were not only leaked but also formulated from the notes of aides listening to the calls, the same aides who ultimately illegally leaked them to the New York Times.

During the conversation between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Trump reportedly threatens to use a border tax to keep out Mexican products and complains about "tough hombres" bringing drugs across the border that are a scourge to so many Americans who become addicted. Trump buttresses his claim by adding that New Hampshire has become a "drug-infested den."

So Trump is trying to paint the need to build the wall to end this carnage wrought by addiction and using the Granite State as an example to bolster his argument for a wall with the Mexican president.

So in the context of fighting for a wall and threatening a border tax and pointing to the ravages of drugs in one of his states, President Trump uses New Hampshire as his argument's fulcrum.

Remember, it's useful to remember that Trump was not speaking from a prepared text, but off the cuff with a leader in a frank discussion "that was supposed to be private" regarding an issue that has become a major thorn in the side of both leaders.

Of course Trump could have used, Massachusetts or Maine or Ohio or California or several other states that have lost thousands of lives to addiction.

The Portland Press Herald a few months ago published a special 10-day series of stories titled "Lost: Heroin's Killer Grip on Maine's People." The summary report noted that 376 lives were lost in 2016, almost all from opioids.

In April New Hampshire officials reported that some 479 victims had died of drug overdoses in 2016.

Across the country in 2016, an estimated 59,000 died from drug overdoses, and fatal ODs were said to be the leading cause of death among Americans under 50, more than car crashes, or gun violence.

States hit the hardest include Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Maine and New Hampshire.

So are we in New Hampshire, and Maine, for that matter, drug-infested dens?

Like so much of the president's verbiage, his reported remarks with Nieto were terribly offensive to most of us.

But think of what his message was.

It was a message that sought to bring home this point.

"You guys have got to pay for the wall or I'll slap you with a border tax. You've got a lot of drug traffickers who are bringing this junk into my country. Your drugs are killing a lot of my people in states like New Hampshire. It's an epidemic. That's why we need the wall."

Clearly, the president's intention was not to disparage our state, it was to drive home the severity of the problem with the president who leads the country from which most of those drugs flow illegally.

Of course Democratic senators took the immediate opportunity to excoriate the president. That figures. So so easy.

Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen tweeted, "It's absolutely unacceptable for the President to be talking about NH in this way - a gross misrepresentation of NH & the epidemic."

Sen. Maggie Hassan tweeted, "Trump's comments about New Hampshire are disgusting. As he knows, NH and states across America have a substance misuse crisis."

Gov. Sununu, a Republican, said it was an aspersion, a much more gentle condemnation.

So Shaheen thinks Trump's assertions are a "misrepresentation" of the opioid crisis. She should talk to the victims' families that I have talked to about losing their loved ones.

She should walk Water Street in Rochester some day, or maybe just behind the library where a user was recently arrested.

Maybe she should talk to the user who ranted at a Rochester convenience store clerk last week because there was no sharpie disposal in the store's bathroom.

New Hampshire is a great state. Rochester is a fine place to live, but cities and towns across Maine and New Hampshire are in the battle of the century with an epidemic that shows no signs of slowing down.

Yeah, the president's comments were crude. Yeah, they were off color. Yeah, they are offensive.

But he was trying to inspire the Mexican president with a sense of urgency to cut off the supply of drugs that are killing Americans at an alarming late, not disparage a state that's been pretty good to him.

We believe Trump is battling the opioid crisis at its origin when he fights for a border wall.

Let's not be in denial to the fact that the lack of a wall has allowed more drugs into our states with deadly consequence.

- HT

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