Tuesday, July 10, 2007

White House muzzled Surgeon General


Stop me if this sounds familiar:

Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional committee today that top officials in the Bush administration repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.

Dr. Carmona, who served as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, said White House officials would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues because of political concerns. Top administration officials delayed for years and attempted to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand tobacco smoke, he said in sworn testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

You have to sympathize with the administration when, as Stephen Colbert once put it, "the facts have an anti-Bush bias."

It gets better.

He was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of every speech he gave, Dr. Carmona said. He was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings, at least one of which included Karl Rove, the president’s senior political adviser, he said.

And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to the Kennedy family.

“I was specifically told by a senior person, ‘Why would you want to help those people?’ ” Dr. Carmona said.

The full text of Carmona's opening statement (as well as video of the hearing and statements from two other former surgeon generals (C. Everett Koop and David Satcher) is available here. Some highlights are picked out in the committee's blog.

Can we just ignore everything said by this administration for the next 18 months? Pretend they're not in the room? Sell their stuff on eBay? Maybe a good shunning is what the White House needs in order for them to understand how sick we are of them politicizing everything.

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's just close down the West Wing for remodeling. That ought to take about 18 months.

7/11/2007 6:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh good Lord. Give me a break. Some guy who this Surgeon General says is senior in the administration makes a comment to him like..."why would you want to support these people?" and he thinks it's ORDERS from the Bush administration to not attend the Special Olympics? Sounds like someone's PERSONAL OPINION to me. Sounds like the guy is sour grapes over something. Has he been fired or something???

JP5

7/11/2007 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AND by the way----ALL Surgeon Generals are pressured to avoid certain political issues. Bill Clinton FIRED his Surgeon General, Joceyln Elders, for making controversial comments on masturbation. And he was right to do so.

JP5

7/11/2007 1:49 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Some guy who this Surgeon General says is senior in the administration makes a comment to him like..."why would you want to support these people?" and he thinks it's ORDERS from the Bush administration to not attend the Special Olympics?

Way to pick out the one example you think is weakest and ignore the others.

Sounds like the guy is sour grapes over something. Has he been fired or something???

He was Surgeon General from 2002 to 2006, and was not renominated for another four-year term. Of course, unless you're going to suggest he's lying, your attempt at a "disgruntled former employee" attack doesn't actually address the substance of his remarks.

ALL Surgeon Generals are pressured to avoid certain political issues.

As his testimony -- and that of the other former SGs -- makes clear, the pressure on him was unprecedented. And covered a broad range of topics. It wasn't "avoid controversy." It was, "avoid any discussion of sex ed, stem cells, and the very broad "prison, mental and global health issues."

I think that leaves plantar warts as a legitimate topic.

7/11/2007 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And so....he was muzzled on the dangers of second-hand smoke, eh? This from last summer:

"Surgeon General Warns of Secondhand Smoke

By LAURAN NEERGAARD
The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 27, 2006; 6:05 PM

WASHINGTON -- Breathing any amount of someone else's tobacco smoke harms nonsmokers, the surgeon general declared Tuesday _ a strong condemnation of secondhand smoke that is sure to fuel nationwide efforts to ban smoking in public.

"The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard," said U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/27/AR2006062700525.html


Sounds pretty definite and aggressive to me! And that's just one article. You can find plenty by him if you look.

JP5

7/11/2007 4:57 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

And so....he was muzzled on the dangers of second-hand smoke, eh?

Um, no. Read it again: "Top administration officials delayed for years and attempted to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand tobacco smoke."

7/11/2007 5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mean they wanted to make absolutely sure the revelation of something that would "surely fuel nationwide efforts to ban smoking" was absolutely correct and truthful?

You must remember, a Surgeon General has no business making statements about setting policy. But don't you find it interesting that according to the article the information is not new? That it's been "out there" since 1986....and no other president....including one Democrat president.....has had their OWN Surgeon Generals make such statements? Do you think that in Clinton's entire 8 years in office, it wasn't important enough for the Surgeon General to announce publically? Don't you find it interesting that it was under George W. Bush that it finally got announced by a Surgeon General?

JP5

7/11/2007 9:11 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

You mean they wanted to make absolutely sure the revelation of something that would "surely fuel nationwide efforts to ban smoking" was absolutely correct and truthful?

Well that would be one way to spin it. Carmona said the concern was openly political, not whether it was "correct and truthful."

But don't you find it interesting that according to the article the information is not new? That it's been "out there" since 1986....and no other president....including one Democrat president.....has had their OWN Surgeon Generals make such statements?

Perhaps there wasn't enough new research to justify a new report. But that doesn't mean the Surgeon Generals were quiet. Jocelyn Elders, for one, spoke frequently about the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke. Nobody muzzled her.

Also, consider all the other things the Clinton administration was doing about it. In 1993 the EPA issued a report classifying secondhand smoke as a Class A carcinogen, for instance. And in 1997, Clinton signed an executive order making all federal buildings smoke-free.

What I certainly don't remember is a surgeon general being told not to address it.

7/11/2007 9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Jocelyn Elders, for one, spoke frequently about the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke. Nobody muzzled her."

Clinton FIRED Jocelyn Elders for a statement she made on masturbation---claiming it needed to be taught in schools. So, I wouldn't say, "nobody muzzled her." FIRING is the ultimate muzzling.

"What I certainly don't remember is a surgeon general being told not to address it."

Now who's spinning? Even YOU printed a statement earlier to me pointing out he wasn't told "not to address it"....but rather claimed it was delayed and watered down. He was NOT prevented from addressing it.

What a Surgeon General cannot do is set policy. In many ways, they represent the administration and cannot make recommendations unless it coincides with the admininstrations recommendations and policies. Clinton was right to fire Elders for claiming that "masturbation should be taught in schools." Bush's administration was right "tone down" Carmona's statements IF they crossed over into policy.

JP5

7/12/2007 11:51 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Clinton FIRED Jocelyn Elders for a statement she made on masturbation---claiming it needed to be taught in schools. So, I wouldn't say, "nobody muzzled her." FIRING is the ultimate muzzling.

He fired her reluctantly. And it was a step taken in the open, in the full light of day. What he didn't do was try to muzzle her ahead of time, in secret.

Now who's spinning? Even YOU printed a statement earlier to me pointing out he wasn't told "not to address it"....but rather claimed it was delayed and watered down. He was NOT prevented from addressing it.

Sorry. I meant to refer to all the other topics that were forbidden.

What a Surgeon General cannot do is set policy.

Agreed. But he was told to stay away from certain topics because the administration had already made a political decision on those subjects, and didn't want the actual science getting in the way.

7/12/2007 12:11 PM  

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