While testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday, the former surgeon general for the Bush administration Dr. Richard Carmona painted a picture of an administration where ideology and politics came before the nation’s medical concerns. “During my first year as Surgeon General, I was still quite politically naïve in the ways of the Beltway. As I witnessed partisanship and political manipulation, I was astounded but also unsure of what I was witnessing — for I had no reference point. I asked myself whether this was just happening to me as the new Surgeon General, or whether this was the norm for all Surgeons General,” Carmona said.

The then new surgeon general went to his predecessors and asked them if this type of treatment was normal. He was told that, “They said that they had all been challenged and had to fight political battles in order to do their job as “the doctor of the nation.” But each agreed that never had they seen Washington, D.C. so partisan or a new Surgeon General so politically challenged and marginalized as during my tenure.”

He described a Surgeon General’s office that was dictated by the views of political appointees. They told me that although most Americans believe that their Surgeon General has the ability to impact the course of public health as “the nation’s doctor,” the reality is that the nation’s doctor has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget, and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas. Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological, or political agenda is ignored, marginalized, or simply buried.”

Dr. Carmona then talked about why this is bad for the nation’s public health. “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 said that members of the Bush administration censored his speeches. He was not allowed to discuss issues like the science behind embryonic stem cell research, and contraceptives. Because the administration thinks destroying embryonic stem cells is immoral, he wasn’t allowed to talk about the possible cures this research might yield.

None of this should be surprising to long time watchers of the Bush administration. The same kind of censorship occurred when scientists tried to release reports about global warming that the administration disagreed with. In the Bush administration, the only things that matter are ideology and loyalty. The will of the public or the public good does not matter. Science is to be tossed aside if it doesn’t fit in with their ideology. Upholding their duty to serve the public doesn’t matter.

The most important thing is politics. This kind of government is the result of the filling of administrative positions with campaign workers and contributors instead of qualified public servants. People who are concerned about politics spend their time trying to censor those who are trying to do what is best for the public. The Bush administration has done so much damage to the United States, in so many different areas, that it will probably take at least a decade to reverse what they have done. January 2009 can’t come soon enough for me.
 

Text of Dr. Carmona’s testimony

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Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics 

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
 
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