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Richard Carmona's Political Science:

Earlier this month, former Bush Surgeon General Richard Carmona testified about political interference with his performance as Surgeon General. Carmona sought to portray himself as a medical professional interested in scientific fact who was pressured and obstructed by ideologically motivated political appointees. Yet as Radley Balko reports, Carmona has a political science problem of his own.

It may, indeed, be a fair point to accuse the Bush administration of politicizing science. But Richard Carmona isn't the person to make it. Carmona's entire term as surgeon general has been marked by embracing every last hobgoblin promoted by the public health movement, generally above and beyond what the science says. Sometimes in spite of it.

Balko was unmoved by Carmona's testimony, and thinks the Surgeon General's office today is an inherently politicized post.

The Office of Surgeon General always has been overtly political, a captive of the most hysterical public health activists. Its only real powers are tongue-clucking and finger-wagging, usually about the latest moral panic, lecturing the American public to knock off its bad habits, lest somebody get hurt. Richard Carmona's tenure was no different, which is why it's laughable to hear him lecture someone else about science.

paul lukasiak (mail):
This is just your usual Bush administration effort to smear its critics (note that this is actually a FauxNews report being reprinted in "Reason.")

Carmona made very specific and credible allegations regarding how Bush administration officials ignored and politicized public health science. The fact that Carmona shares the anti-marijuana and anti-smoking hysteria that Balko criticizes has no actual bearing on Carmona's criticism --- it is just a smear tactic aimed at destroying his credibility.

Its surprising that, after six and a half years of Bushco's constant and deliberate efforts to smear its critics, you still link to this kind of nonsense uncritically....
7.26.2007 8:09am
Steve:
Yawn. Yet another disgruntled Bush appointee turns out to have been a wild-eyed liberal all along. I think I've seen this movie before.
7.26.2007 10:04am
Jake (Guest):
Is the claim here that Radley Balko is a Bush administration hatchet man? Really?
7.26.2007 10:09am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Jake... he criticized a Bush administration critic, so by definition, he must be a Bush hatchet man. Haven't you figured that out yet?
7.26.2007 10:30am
Justin (mail):
I'm with Steve on this one. It's amazing, given the efforts that Bush goes through to keep liberals from even nonpolitical-appointee jobs, how he lets so many stinkin' commies to get cabinet-level positions.
7.26.2007 10:57am
S.A. Miller (mail) (www):
This is just your usual Bush administration effort to smear its critics

You think reason is doing a smear job for the Bush administration? Perhaps you should pick up a copy, or try reading their blog some time.

Aside from that, I have very little sympathy for political appointees who get let go for political reasons.
7.26.2007 11:09am
WHOI Jacket:
Wait, REASON is doing hatchet work for Bush now? In the words of the intertubes, O RlY?
7.26.2007 11:15am
WHOI Jacket:
Wait, REASON is doing hatchet work for Bush now? In the words of the intertubes, O RLY?
7.26.2007 11:15am
rarango (mail):
Is it remotely possible that Radley Balko is simply pointing out what may be a bit of a double standard?
7.26.2007 11:31am
ifoughtthelaw (mail) (www):
Is there any direct refutation of what Carmona said in his testimony, or are we just not supposed to believe him because he has his own politics? I seem to remember him giving a number of concrete factual examples.
7.26.2007 11:38am
Justin (mail):
I don't think anyone's accused "Reason" of anything, so much as, ya know, Radly Balko. That Nick Gillepie and George W. Bush aren't exactly friends does not seem relevant.

Balko's argument seems patently absurd. People have pointed this out. Defending the argument by authority via pointing out the defense occured in Reason doesn't seem particularly relevant.

Now Balko is one of those "Bush in 2000, Kerry (crap, really, maybe there's a line....shooot, there's no line...okay, Kerry, I guess.....what, Kerry lost...haha, stupid liberals) in 2004" guys. But he's viruntly anti-administrative-state (much more so than Gillepsie). So trying to discredit those people who think Bush is interfering with the Administrative State doesn't seem outside his morals.

Of course, defending on authority basis makes no sense, and nobody here has made an argument based on ad hominen, so I'm not sure what the point people are trying to make. Radly Balko doesn't need to be getting his marching orders from Bush to make a plainly stupid argument.
7.26.2007 11:38am
Justin (mail):
"Is there any direct refutation of what Carmona said in his testimony, or are we just not supposed to believe him because he has his own politics?"

Latter.
7.26.2007 11:39am
abcdefgh:
The article is not an ad hominem attack -- Balko never disputes Carmona's claims, that's not the point of his article.

Here's what he actually says about the Bush Administration:

This is a common criticism of the Bush administration, made most thoroughly in journalist Chris Mooney's 2005 book, The Republican War on Science. When it comes to issues such as global warming, stem cell research or the teaching of evolution—the argument goes—the White House adopts what you might call a "faith-based" approach to science, not an approach grounded in empiricism.

I'm sympathetic to this charge.

And later, he says:

It may, indeed, be a fair point to accuse the Bush administration of politicizing science. But Richard Carmona isn't the person to make it.


The article uses Carmona's statement as a jumping off point to criticize Carmona's tenure as Surgeon General. In fact, the article explicitly supports Carmona's argument about the Bush Administration politicizing science by pointing out the role that Carmona himself played in doing this.

I honestly don't understand how someone can read this article as a defense of the Bush administration.
7.26.2007 12:15pm
abcdefgh:

Is there any direct refutation of what Carmona said in his testimony, or are we just not supposed to believe him because he has his own politics?

Where in the article does Balko say, or even suggest, that we should disbelieve Carmona's testimony?

His whole point is that Carmona's part of the very problem he's complaining about. If anything, Balko says Carmona understates the problem:

Carmona didn't mention medical marijuana in his list of grievances because Carmona isn't any more interested in actual science on the medical marijuana issue than the Bush administration is.

Does this sound like a defense of the Bush administration?
7.26.2007 12:24pm
abcdefgh:
Balko's argument seems patently absurd. People have pointed this out.

And what exactly is Balko's patently absurd argument?

There's seems to be a lot more criticism of the argument that people imagine Balko must have made than the argument he actually made.
7.26.2007 12:42pm
BGates:
Justin, when you write that "nobody here has made an argument based on ad homine[m]," does 'here' refer to the comment thread that begins, "This is just your usual Bush administration effort to smear its critics (note that this is actually a FauxNews report being reprinted in 'Reason.')"?
7.26.2007 1:09pm
Justin (mail):
You're referring to Paul's post, BGates. But you aren't referring to his ARGUMENT, which reads, in whole:

"Carmona made very specific and credible allegations regarding how Bush administration officials ignored and politicized public health science. The fact that Carmona shares the anti-marijuana and anti-smoking hysteria that Balko criticizes has no actual bearing on Carmona's criticism --- it is just a smear tactic aimed at destroying his credibility."

Paul's post might have been more effective without the gratuitous insults, but they were gratuitous to the post.
7.26.2007 1:20pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Political interference in a politcally-appointed position. I would love to complain to one of the partners that they are interfering in my legal independence.
7.26.2007 1:49pm
abcdefgh:
Justin, you refer to Balko's "plainly stupid" argument -- what argument are you talking about?

Is it the argument that Carmona's testimony about the Bush administration isn't credible? Because that claim appears nowhere in Balko's article -- in fact, Balko supports the charge that the administration politicized science.

Seriously, I don't understand what the complaint is here.
7.26.2007 2:50pm
K:
The SG post itself is the problem. The President appoints a Doctor from his party. The appointee becomes a nominal Admiral and wears a dandy uniform (I think it is self designed). He/she has no medical function.

Then the SG makes speeches and other comments about health, education, and science issues. Sometimes the 'out' party doesn't like what is said and manages to have the SG changed. Sometimes it is the SG bosses - themselves political appointees - who don't like it.

The job no longer serves a purpose. Abolish it. Either that or put lasers on those uniforms and change the title to Surgeons-General-Wizard.
7.26.2007 3:26pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I don't think anyone's accused "Reason" of anything, so much as, ya know, Radly Balko. That Nick Gillepie and George W. Bush aren't exactly friends does not seem relevant.
Perhaps. But the fact that Radley Balko and George W. Bush aren't exactly friends is entirely relevant. One would have to be a knee-jerk left-wing anti-Bush type to think that anything Paul Lukasiak said made any sense. It assumed Radley was part of the Bush administration, and worse, it assumed Radley said something exactly the opposite of what he was saying.


And incidentally, I wish knee-jerk left-wing anti-Bush types would drop the phrase "smear their critics" from their vocabulary. Challenging someone's credibility is not "smearing" them. It's a preemptive attempt for Bush critics to insulate themselves from criticism. "I'm going to attack the administration and if they don't deny it then it's an admission I'm right and if they do deny it, it's 'smearing' me."
7.26.2007 5:07pm
therut:
Who listens to the Surgeon General? Not even most physicians listen to the Surgeon General. It is a waste of money. And really since Joycelyn Elders the entire idea is a JOKE. Please. The Surgeon General is that funny person dressed up like a General acting like a physician and the person who says "These cigarettes will KILL you" on the side of a cigarette pack. How much does that dressed up person cost me?
7.26.2007 9:50pm
scote (mail):

How much does that dressed up person cost me?

Not as much as willfully ignoring science costs us.

By ignoring evidence of harm, the Administration regularly trades the public good for corporate profits and/or fact-resistant ideology. We throw billions into ineffective programs like abstinence-only and faith-based programs that have no proven effectiveness, to mention only a few things, instead of investing in evidence based programs. The Surgeon General, like the AG, should be a trusted source of fact-based information not a lying political aparatchik.
7.26.2007 11:16pm
neurodoc:
The appointee becomes a nominal Admiral and wears a dandy uniform (I think it is self designed).

The Commissioned Corps is a uniformed, non-military branch of federal service that has been around for past 200 years so. Its SG (the Army, Navy, and Air Force each have their own SGs) is an 0-9 or three-star (equivalent to Vice Admiral or a Lieutenant General), and CC officers (there are no "enlisted" or "non-commissioned" officers among them) were uniforms identical but for the insignia on their collars and coat sleeves to those of US Navy officers, and always have. Unless they have beards, like C. Everett Koop did, something permitted them but not Navy, CC are not readily recognizable as other than Navy.

He has no medical function.

"No medical function"?! The USPHS SG is not immediately responsible for the clinical care of patients, but some of his/her subordinates at NIH, Indian Health Service, and NIMH are. And their medical "function" is no less than that of the Directors of NIH and the FDA. (Both NIH and FDA have been headed briefly by non-physicians; I don't believe that the USPHS SG has at any time been other than a physician.)
7.27.2007 3:07am