The Concord (N.H.) Monitor, Jan. 27, 2015
Whether she knows it or not, Sarah Palin penned her own political obituary during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines on Jan. 24.
For 35 minutes, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate — and perennial fundraising darling for the Republican Party — meandered from one incoherent topic to another, often resorting to the playground taunts and fortune cookie wisdom that are her bread and butter.
Her gems included comparing Obama to a spoiled little boy who never learned that "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit" and a tangent about critics of the film American Sniper, during which she shouted "screw the left in Hollywood." At one point, she even resorted to "I'm rubber, you're glue" tactics: When the left points at Republicans about sexism and racism, Palin said, there are three times as many fingers pointing back at them.
But she saved perhaps the most vapid of her stream-of-consciousness critiques for Hillary Clinton: "The press asks, 'Can anyone stop Hillary?' Again, this is to forego a conclusion, right? It's to scare us off, to convince us that a pantsuit can crush patriots."
In the aftermath of Palin's bizarre linguistic jaunt, some news outlets reported that her teleprompter froze, which forced her to ad-lib much of the speech. It's a defense Palin has used before, and it remains just as ridiculous today as ever. Anybody who has ever worked with a teleprompter can tell you that you should always keep a copy of the text in front of you. A speaker should never cast their fate to a piece of equipment that is out of their control. But suppose, for the sake of argument, that Palin made that rookie mistake, which led to her plethora of cringe-worthy tangents. What kind of speaker is so unfamiliar with their prepared speech that if the teleprompter breaks, Plan B is to channel their inner James Joyce?
Once the poor teleprompter is cleared of blame, all that remains is the fact that Palin delivered the speech she intended to deliver, which is a frightening thought considering the job Sen. John McCain had in mind for her in 2008. He should thank his lucky stars every day that the people of the United States and the world never had to pay for that colossal lapse in judgment.
While those who have tracked Palin since she burst onto the national political scene may not be surprised that she went off the rails a little bit, this time was different. Never has she appeared less capable of leading a local board meeting, never mind the government of the United States, than she did in Iowa over the weekend.
And that makes what she said the day before her turn at the Freedom Summit seem even more mind-boggling. In an interview with the Washington Post, Palin was asked whether she was interested in running for president in 2016.
"You can absolutely say that I am seriously interested," she said.
There are only two possible explanations for that answer. One is that she has so much confidence in her ability to win over voters with her folksy charm that she honestly believes no one will notice the complete lack of substance in almost everything she says. The other, and perhaps more probable explanation, is that Palin is much more interested in being a political celebrity than a political candidate, a la Donald Trump.
Either way, it's time to put the Candidate Palin myth to rest. She can flirt with a run all she wants, but voters should see her "will I or won't I" for what it is — an attempt to remain relevant in a conversation that is way over her head.
The Morning Sentinel of Waterville (Maine), Jan. 28, 2015
The parent of a sick child would do anything to find a medication that would restore their youngster to good health. But when the treatment in question is medical cannabis, parents quickly run up against one of the drug's major shortcomings: Because cannabis has been categorized as a substance more dangerous than cocaine, lacking any "currently acceptable medical use," there's been virtually no research into whether it's safe or effective for use in children.
Now the nation's leading group of pediatricians is looking to change this situation. The American Academy of Pediatrics is pushing the federal government to reclassify cannabis so experts can do more investigation into how and whether it can help children — a move that ultimately could improve the well-being of tens of thousands of kids across the United States.
Of all the disorders that could be treated by medical cannabis, epilepsy is one of the most high-profile. (The Epilepsy Foundation called on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify medical cannabis last year.) In Maine and the 22 other states where cannabis is legal for medicinal uses the substance (taken in a liquid form, in food or under the tongue) has become something of a miracle drug for parents of the estimated 100,000 children in the U.S. who experience frequent and uncontrollable seizures.
Each seizure turns the brain off for a moment and can slow the child's ability to process information. Having hundreds of seizures weekly or even daily, as some youngsters do, can cause memory defects, attention deficits and difficulty with finding and remembering words, as well as behavior and social issues. And the negatives of untreatable epilepsy continue into adulthood: "The focus of trouble simply shifts from school to the workplace," according to Canadian epilepsy researcher W. McIntyre Burnham.
But the evidence in favor of medical cannabis for childhood disorders is largely word-of-mouth. There's relatively little hard proof that cannabis is an effective medication. Anyone who wants to test medical cannabis in an independent clinical trial involving human subjects has to get the approval of three different federal agencies. That's because cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug: classifying it as a drug as dangerous as heroin and LSD.
Now the American Academy of Pediatrics, citing the "limited evidence" that medical cannabis may ease some conditions in adults, wants to enable research in children by making cannabis a Schedule 2 drug. Substances on this list, like morphine and codeine, have "a high potential for abuse" but can be used for medical purposes and may be prescribed by a doctor.
The pediatricians' group has never before called for cannabis to be reclassified, so this is both a major shift and a wise one. Currently, parents don't know whether the medical cannabis they've bought is actually safe or potent unless they get it tested in a third-party laboratory. And if they can't find something at home that works, they don't have the option of shopping in another state — under federal law, that's drug trafficking.
Allowing scientists to document medical cannabis' therapeutic benefits and drawbacks in clinical studies could pave the way for the development of standardized, effective, readily available medications for a disorder that affects tens of thousands of kids when they're at a vulnerable point developmentally.
And hundreds of thousands of adults also stand to benefit. Of the 2.3 million Americans older than 18 who have epilepsy, one-third have a drug-resistant type, making it harder for them to find and keep a job than their peers in the general population and more likely to be socially withdrawn and to die by suicide.
The Food and Drug Administration, which can recommend whether to reclassify a drug, already is reviewing whether cannabis should remain on the list of Schedule 1 substances. If the federal government truly wants American families to be happy and healthy, the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics — an organization grounded in knowledge of children's health and advocacy for children's well-being — should count for a great deal.