Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Politicizing the Surgeon General

The New York Times has an article regarding the political pressures faced by Richard Carmona, President Bush's Surgeon General from 2002-2006. While it shouldn't be surprising (given the way we've seen other supposedly non-partisan officials being politically manipulated), it is still frightening.

The administration, Dr. Carmona said, would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues. Top officials delayed for years and tried to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand smoke, he said. Released last year, the report concluded that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke could cause immediate harm.

Dr. Carmona said he was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of his speeches. He also said he was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings.

And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to a “prominent family” that he refused to name.

Some of these are somewhat understandable (not to say excusable), given that the Bush administration promotes abstinence-only sex education and what not. But, I didn't think that even the Bush Administration would stoop so low as to call into question the legitimacy of the Special Olympics just because the Kennedys are associated with it. But, they did just that. Indeed, one top official told Dr. Carmona, "Why would you want to help those people?" So, the Surgeon General cannot support the Special Olympics because it would "help" the Kennedys? This is one of the most ludicrous, immoral arguments I have ever heard, and that's saying a lot, because the Bush Administration makes boatloads of them.

The Surgeon General is supposed to be the nation's top doctor. We are supposed to be able to look to him for sound advice regarding any and all health issues. We shouldn't have to worry that he is simply a pawn of the appointing President. Health issues are more important than politics. But, as it has been shown many times in the past, nothing is more important than politics to the Bush Administration.

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