Many times have I read The Bad Astronomer rant about the anti-science forces in the current administration. We’ve heard complaints from officials at NASA, we read about the “alternative explanations” for the formation of the Grand Canyon, on sale at Grand Canyon National Park book stores. And now we hear from former United States Surgeons General:
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. Released last year, the report concluded that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke could cause immediate harm.
Dr. Carmona spoke at length with Judy Woodruff on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer. Attempts to stifle science for political ends are not new:
JUDY WOODRUFF: At this hearing today, it was not only you, but it was your Democratic and your predecessors of both Democratic and Republican administrations who spoke of conflicts with the administration. But you said your experience was worse under this administration. What did you mean?
DR. RICHARD CARMONA: Well, let me put it in context. It really wasn’t me. It was my predecessors who, after I was in office a few months, went to them for counsel, for mentoring, and mentioned to them the struggle I was having. And they recounted to me all the struggles that they had and said that is the way the surgeon general position has been for some time, but what we see is that you have it worse than any of us. And this is coming from several surgeon generals who preceded me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And what were they basing that on? What was happening to you?
DR. RICHARD CARMONA: Their observations that the surgeon general was not allowed to speak out on health issues when needed, based on the best science, to deliver the best science, that often policy or spokespersons in government would be talking about given issues without appropriate scientific due diligence. And they were very concerned about that and had called me a number of times when I was in office.
But Carmona’s predecessors agree that this suppression is worst ever under King George the Puerile:
JUDY WOODRUFF: And was it worse under this administration or not?
DR. RICHARD CARMONA: Well, again, my reference point is solely this administration. It is my colleagues who came to me, several surgeon generals, Loop, Satcher, Novello, Julius Richmond, going back to the ’70s, who all said, “We had to fight battles, but nobody has had it as bad in this partisan environment as Surgeon General Carmona.”
Is there a doctor in the White House – anywhere?