Merck CEO takes a stand against Trump, and doesn’t pay a price. ‘Fire Steve Bannon’

Jack Ohman looks at the Charlottesville riot and sees a different “victim.” Feel his pain here.

Our take


More than murals, Wide Open Walls is a sign Sacramento has finally arrived: The mural festival might not seem like much, just some paint on some forgotten walls. But for Sacramento, which has struggled to be seen as more than a government town with no personality, murals can do a lot to put the capital city on the cultural map.


Erika D. Smith: From Charlottesville to California, everyone suffers when Trump pampers racists: Donald Trump’s reluctance to call out racial hatred, even in Charlottesville, has left an opening for white supremacists.


Rob Stutzman: A call to Republican Christians: Silence in the face of white racism is complicity: Dozens of prominent conservative pastors released magnificent statements that left no doubt that white supremacy is antithetical to the gospel of Christ.

C. Duane Dauner: No health care provider ever wants to turn a patient away. At the same time, doctors and hospitals must be paid enough to cover their costs and keep the doors open for everyone in the community.

Good morning. On behalf of The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board, welcome to The Take, your opinion-politics newsletter. Please sign up for it here and tell a friend.

Take a number: 0.29 percent

In President Donald Trump effort to repeal Obamacare, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, drug makers’ main trade group, is notable for being neither for repeal nor against it. In a recent editorial, we wondered why; maybe drugmakers feared Trump would exact revenge by, say, trying to impose prescription drug price controls. Trump offered a hint Monday by twitter-attacking Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of drug giant Merck, after Frazier protested Trump’s weak response to the Nazi march in Charlottesville by quitting Trump’s American Manufacturing Council. Using the official White House account, Trump tweeted early in the day that Frazier would “have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” Trump, dwelling on it late in the day, trolled Frazier again: “@Merck Pharma is a leader in higher & higher drug prices while at the same time taking jobs out of the U.S. Bring jobs back & LOWER PRICES!” How presidential. The perceptive and pointed Michael Hiltzik wrote in the LA Times that intentionally or not, Frazier put 27 other business leaders on the hottest of hot seats. Why do they still serve on Trump’s council. Our question: What will PhRMA do now that Frazier, a former chair of the group, has stood up to Trump? Undoubtedly, other CEOs noted Merck’s stock; it rose 0.29 percent Monday.

Their take

Kansas City Star: Even when President Donald Trump stepped to the podium on Monday to say the least that could be said of the racist terror attack in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend, he paused to high-five himself for the soaring stock market before getting to the point.

L.A. Times: It took him long enough – in fact, too long. Two days after a protest in Charlottesville, Va., dissolved into violence, President Trump – who initially seemed to see no difference between the racists and Nazis who had called the march and the counterdemonstrators opposing them – finally denounced the hard-right for what it is. Unfortunately, the time for that statement was Saturday afternoon when the rest of the civilized world spoke up.

San Diego Union-Tribune: President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said the presidency “is preeminently a place of moral leadership.” President Ronald Reagan once said, “The truth is, politics and morality are inseparable.” President Donald Trump once said nothing to denounce white nationalism the weekend it whipped America into a frenzy.

San Francisco Chronicle: To see how special interests continue to find ways around campaign finance laws, look no further than their contributions to politicians’ favorite causes.

Dalia Lithwick, Slate: The scars and horrors endured by Charlottesville this weekend will persist, but so will its heroes. The clergy members who stood between the white supremacists and the town, the locals who sang and handed out water, the activists who civilly held their ground, the teachers and students who reclaimed the UVA campus for tolerance, our hospital workers, and Heather Heyer, who gave her life.

David French, National Review: If the president wants to take decisive action to distance himself from America’s most hateful elements, there is one thing he can do today: He can fire Steve Bannon, the man who gave them a platform.

Syndicates’ take

E.J. Dionne Jr.: After Charlottesville, end the denial about Donald Trump. He has shown us his real instincts throughout his public life, from his birtherism to his reluctance to turn away 2016 endorsements from Klansmen and other racists.

Michael Gerson: Modern presidents must speak for the nation in times of tragedy. Not every president does this equally well. But none has been incapable. Until Donald Trump.

Paul Krugman: The man who began his political ascent by falsely questioning Barack Obama’s place of birth clearly cares nothing about the openness and inclusiveness that have always been essential parts of who we are as a nation.

Eugene Robinson: There are those who see President Trump’s initial reluctance to denounce white-power groups as nothing but politics – an appeal to white voters who are anxious about growing diversity. Yet the president’s reversal was clearly a political calculation. I believe what we heard Saturday was simply a genuine first reaction.

Trudy Rubin: To save Afghanistan, President Trump needs new strategy toward Pakistan. Some of the president’s advisers have urged him to pull U.S. troops out altogether and he once said he’d like to wash his hands of the Afghan conflict. That may be tempting but would likely lead to a Taliban takeover and a return of al-Qaida – as well as a new base for ISIS.


“Freedom of speech does not mean we have no standards or limits on treasonous, dangerous language.” – Rose King, Sacramento

Sign (and Tweet) of the day

“Effective Saturday 12th August, Cole White no longer works at top dog. The actions of those in Charlottesville are not supported by top dog. We believe in individual freedom, and voluntary association for everyone. Yours truly, top dog” Sign outside the politically-themed frankfurter grill on Durant Avenue in Berkeley, after an employee was caught on camera marching with white supremacists and outed on Twitter.

“cole white is a nazi who got fired from selling hotdogs and let me tell you ... i relish it.” @theblowout