Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Perpetuating the Climate of Politicized Ignorance

From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, July 10 — Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional panel Tuesday that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations. 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. . . .

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. “I was specifically told by a senior person, ‘Why would you want to help those people?’ ” Dr. Carmona said. The Special Olympics is one of the nation’s premier charitable organizations to benefit disabled people, and the Kennedys have long been deeply involved in it. . . .

Dr. Carmona is one of a growing list of present and former administration officials to charge that politics often trumped science within what had previously been largely
nonpartisan government health and scientific agencies. . . .

In his testimony, Dr. Carmona said that at first he was so politically naïve that he
had little idea how inappropriate the administration’s actions were. He eventually consulted six previous surgeons general, Republican and Democratic, and all agreed, he said, that he faced more political interference than they had.

On issue after issue, Dr. Carmona said, the administration made decisions about important public health issues based solely on political considerations, not scientific ones. “I was told to stay away from those because we’ve already decided which way we want to go,” Dr. Carmona said. He described attending a meeting of top officials in which the subject of global warming was discussed. The officials concluded that global warming was a liberal cause and dismissed it, he said.
Just further proof that the Bush administration has used politics to trump reason. We're already familiar with the White House's refusal to address the stem cell issue. But most infuriating here is the administration's dismissal of the Special Olympics program simply because the Kennedy family plays a prominent role in this charity. How can one's political prejudices overshadow the great work of Special Olympics?? This behavior only underscores further the climate of politicized ignorance that defines the Bush administration at every level and on every issue. Moreover, its assault on the supposed independence of the Surgeon General's position merely confirms the administration's documented disdain for the health and welfare of American citizens. "The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science, or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds. The job of surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political party," Carmona added. The revelation that administration officials even censored Carmona's speeches and ordered him to remain silent on certain issues again highlights the eery parallel between the Bush White House and the historical model of the nascent fascist state. Surveying the work of this administration, Hitler would be proud. As Americans, however, we should be outraged and ashamed.

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