Play Politics Much?

Every so often, I use this space to share the perspectives of my cousin, a scientist and cardiologist.

Like so many medical professionals, he used to be a reliable Republican; he’s now appalled by the way in which the Grand Old Party has deserted science and especially by its total capitulation to politics over sound medicine. In a recent post to his own blog, he addressed the GOP’s refusal to confirm a stellar candidate to the post of Surgeon General.

In March of this year, President Obama nominated a highly qualified candidate, Vivek Murthy, to be the nation’s next Surgeon General, but the nomination was not advanced to a confirmation vote in the Senate because conservative lawmakers and the National Rifle Association found his reasonable views on firearm regulation unacceptable. Thus a highly respected physician with impressive credentials who would have been an outstanding Surgeon General was rejected solely for political reasons. Although I, for one, believe that the regulation of firearms does indeed qualify as being a health/medical issue (see my post of May 30, 2013), it certainly should not constitute a “litmus test” for qualification for such a position.

Ya think?

Bottom line: The office of Surgeon General is vacant because a highly qualified doctor has pissed off the NRA by saying something that every sentient being understands to be true: gun violence is a public health issue.

No one in the GOP–and damn few Democrats–are willing to stand up to an organization so far out of the mainstream of public opinion that its own members think it is too extreme.

Our political system is so broken, it may be beyond repair.


  1. And here I thought that the Senate was supposed to offer advice and consent, not the NRA. When did we surrender reasonable and constitutionally delineated powers to the NRA? It seems that the racist boil that has arisen on our collect behinds just keeps on infecting our politics. For what other reason would a fully qualified and reputable candidate be vilified other than to make sure that our bi-racial President succeeds in nothing. Once again, the GOP delays, underfunds, raises spurious objections to everything the President proposes, all in the interests of their party, not in the interest of the country. I have less and less respect for the people and the process. Even Democrats are afraid of the NRA. That should tell us something about who is really running things. It sure is not the “people”.

  2. Many pundits hoped that after these midterm elections the Great Oligarchy Plot would have to finally resort to governance to have any hope for the brass ring in 2016. I see no evidence of that. The real question is can America survive their inability to govern and inattention to the country?

    I suppose that we have a couple of hundred years of momentum that should get us through. A few decades of Republican ignore-ance of even stylistic shows of concern for we, the people, can’t possible overcome American history.

    Can it?

  3. It is said that you don’t know one culture until you know two. It is only noticeable in comparison. Immersion in one culture seems like the way people are and think and behave is just and only that. Only when one experiences other cultures does one see how culture blinds us to many other ways to be and think and behave.

    When one observes rather than experiences other cultures the natural human tendency is to be dismissive of it. Look how funny those people dress, behave, interact, believe.

    I really think that while the current Republican swamp is due to their political need to cater to the lowest common denominators of Americans, it has gone on long enough to have enculurated them. It seems normal and traditional. And all alternatives strange and foreign.

    Cultures are evolutionarily significant because they resist hap hazard change. So our problems in this civil war are daunting.

    What seems normal to them is destructive to the country. They are “comfortable” in their culture. What can/will blast them into discomfort motivating enough to demand a new culture?

    I don’t know. I just don’t know.

  4. “The people” have nothing to do with the Senate, JD. As the framers designed, “the people,” or as our framers would have called them “the masses,” should be confined to the House. The Senate was designed to be akin to the House of Lords – hence the reason why for a long period of time – before a constitutional amendment was passed – the Senate was an appointed position by state legislatures. In fact, even the way the Senate is elected shields it from sways in public opinion (33/ 33/ 34 – only a third can be elected at any one time). These are some of the reasons why it WAS considered “the greatest deliberative body” in history.

    Now, of course this has changed over time to the point of ridiculousness as Ms. Kennedy so accurately has pointed out.

    Now, I’m not arguing that what is happening with the Surgeon General appointment is right. In fact, it’s clearly wrong for all the reasons stated.

    What I find incredibly interesting, however, is that the Surgeon General does almost nothing policy wise. It’s not the head of a major department. It doesn’t have massive amounts of appropriations at its disposal. In fact, other than Everett Koop (Reagan’s), you probably couldn’t recognize them if they passed you on the street. Without the administration putting a microphone in front of the SG, announcements are usually kept to a press release here or there which, in today’s age of almost instantaneous knowledge and disposal of information wouldn’t amount to much, if any, power.

    However, as my Repiblican friends would say to us complaining, don’t the Democrats have control of the Senate right now? Can’t they pass the nominee out of committee and have a floor debate? Couldn’t Harry Reid keep this on the floor as long as he needed to in order to make the GOP look like fools for being beholden to the NRA for such a position of non-power? Of course the answer to these questions is yes. And because of that, we Democrats must share the blame.

  5. “Gun violence is a public health issue”

    “Gun violence is a public health issue”

    “Gun violence is a public health issue”

    How many times does it have to be stated
    to get the message across.

    NRA stands for a group that has “No Rational Attributes”

  6. My hope is that the architects of this mess we are in (the GOP, Tea Partiers, the NRA, corporate-funded super-PACs, ALEC, etc) are moving so close to the far boundary of “acceptable” that they and their lemming-like followers will fall right off the edge.

  7. I agree with your medical doctor cousin’s assessment that using a candidate’s thoughts on firearms regulation as a litmus test for appointment as the Surgeon General is over the edge, way over the edge. The Surgeon General does not set policy and certainly should be given the leeway to have personal thoughts and beliefs about any number of issues. I suspect the NRA has bought the votes of both Republicans and Democrats alike.

    By the way, I read a few of your cousin’s blog posts and was especially pleased to read his up-front thoughts about Dr Oz as delivering questionable medical advice via his vaulted media platform.

  8. Every day we hears of Middle East goings on and typically we think how different those people are from us. I think that the evidence supports no difference as people. Only different cultures adapted to different circumstances. There but for those different circumstances go we.

  9. @Pete, you touched upon a truth re: different cultures and our occasional, perhaps frequent, failure to realize that most people across the globe are doing the best they can with what they have in their particular cultures. They’ve adapted to their cultural mores just as we’ve adapted to our cultural mores simply for nothing more than survival, than flying under the radar of the individual culture cops, and for finding a comfortable niche where life has more rewards than burdens. Their truth is different from our truth.

    If not for my favorite uncle’s taking a deep, an intentional, and an active interest in my education and my viewpoint, my mindset as a high school student in the rural South, I’d likely today be a totally different person, not a person who’d be sharing on this blog, for sure. Why he selected me from a score of nieces and nephews remains up for discussion, but nevertheless, he dragged me willingly as his travel companion across Europe and Asia on several occasions during his travels for attendance at international conferences through his association/membership in the AICP (American Institute of Certified Planners). Needless to say, I’m forever grateful for his being my family mentor and only regret one time I did not follow his sage advice of attending Radcliffe College, the sister school for Harvard where he’d graduated.

    In short, the moral of this story is to take every advantage possible to travel, to travel into places, areas that place you outside your comfort zone, way outside your comfort zone. Don’t be the ugly American, that’s a given, when visiting faraway places where the natives live and operate in a fashion that may be totally foreign to us. After all, why travel anywhere if your only goal is to pull back in horror at the inherent differences.

  10. No matter how we may view it, and in spite of the ‘arc of the universe’, the nation is inching evermore to the right. Every factor to consider indicates a steady, constant progression away from the social mandates instituted by FDR. We speak of ‘W’ as having been a right winger,but the son actually paled when compared to his father who connived unceasingly behind doors to install Uncle Thomas on the SCOTUS. His act has had more bearing on his legacy than anything his son ever did. Yes, thousands died in a needless war but don’t forget that more die through gun violence in one year than dies in the whole of Bush’s wars. And Uncle Tom still presides. This is the right-wing mantra: When they are in, we hold, when we are in, we act. Would Clinton ever have put a left wing reactionary on the court to countered him? No. Would Obama? No. He seated ‘middle of the road’ candidates. No such person exists. Since the ’80s, politics have become right and far right while Democrats refuse to even recognize it. Indiana has led the nation, as it always does, in trending backwards. We sent one of the farthest right senators in the country to Washington under the guise of being a Democrat. Why? Simply because we don’t have a true, powerful Democrat in the state. The last one, Birch, left us with Evan. How’d that work out for us?

  11. @Earl, simply because I’ve lived in four different states during my adult life, I’ve never developed a solidified leaning toward the left or toward the right in state matters political. Each state where I’ve lived has its own peculiar culture that waxes and wanes between shifting periods of progressive thought and conservative thought much like lunar phases or tidal cycles. Of course, within the individual states there will be regional cultures that shift between progressive and conservative thought. What’s important to those living inside I-465 might not be important to those living in Paoli or Rochester, different cultures, different needs, different outlooks. I will agree with your statement, “Indiana has led the nation, as it always does, in trending backwards” after living here for the last 10 years. Yep, you nailed it with that statement.

  12. Excellent comments, Earl, excellent! And who sat on that panel to make the decision regarding Uncle Thomas’s morals but Uncle Teddy who, at the time was a frequent headliner in the media regarding his own morals – or lack thereof. The decision of that panel allowed Daddy Bush to seat Uncle Thomas on the SCOTUS. Uncle Teddy did finally grow up and become a fine Senator while Uncle Thomas (I do love that term:) has stagnated in place on the SCOTUS, dragging as much of the nation down to his level as legally possible. We are ruled by five old Catholic men and one Speaker of the House whose manta is “destroy Obama, the Democratic party and all they stand for”. Except we don’t appear to be standing strong enough for anything to prevent sliding faster and faster backwards into the 20th Century we just struggled out of. Thank you for making the astute observation regarding differences between Birch and Evan Bayh. I don’t believe I have seen that in print before, anywhere, and I believe Democrats were blinded by the name “Bayh” and missed the differences between them.

    The war that Bush and Cheney continue taking credit for is still taking American lives; whether left or right, their deaths are not political but are tragedies that have led to beheadings of dozens. Including three Americans. Has anyone else noticed that ISIS terrorists hide their faces behind black hoods just as the KKK hides their’s behind white sheets? If they believe they are doing right by their religious beliefs and are proud of these actions; why do they hide their faces? The damage done by SCOTUS by denying civil and voting rights and signing into law permission to sell political positions to the highest bidder is distracting our law makers from moving forward on vital issues. It is past time for President Obama to use his executive privilege to accomplish what he can during his last two years in office. Why count numbers of this action; look at the content of actions taken or opportunities missed. But…the GOP is into quantity not quality.

  13. As we post these comments, Brother Joe Donnelly stands in the senate debating for passage of the XL pipeline. That should remind me of all the hullabaloo over the needless extension I 69. We didn’t want it but we’re paying for it. As though it were ever in doubt. They will build the road to nowhere. ( Who goes to Evansville?) They will build the pipeline to China. Ginsburg will sit until Jeb is pres because the GOP will make it worth her while. Your local sheriff will get another F35 fighter bomber just in case you decide to vote. You will make Irsay the richest man in Indiana. in place of the 3rd richest, because you will pay $59 for $3 T shirt with a logo printed in China. You will do this because your eyes are watching God.

  14. @Earl, to be sure you really didn’t intend to pen a statement speaking about a needless extension of I-69, about building a road to nowhere, and about asking a thoughtless rhetorical question, “Who goes to Evansville?” Believe it or not, the I-69 corridor is a major transportation route and more importantly was not designed simply to provide access to Evansville. Indiana is not a stand alone state, it’s part and parcel of the central Midwest, the crossroads of America. We must escape our narrow, provincial thought processes.

  15. And how, my fellow Democrats for lack of a better word, do we address this dilemma? What happens if we exhaust our resources getting Hillary into the WH. What happens then? What changes? Does the war against women end? Will healthcare get better? Do endless wars end?
    (Keep doing the same thing and expect change……) To hell with Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton. ( I didn’t list Obama because he was cut off at the knees.) If we can get a black man into the WH we can get a white woman there. Run, Liz. Run!

  16. Take this into consideration: Black men were given the vote before white women. Maybe that’s an omen!

  17. Be it Hillary, Liz or Bernie in the White House after November 2016; unless we clear out Republicans in Congress before then we will be stuck with the status quo. Face it; we Democrats are running in place and the Republicans are running backwards. Meanwhile, wars rage on, health care is in jeopardy due to politics which shouldn’t be controlling our medical decisions and availability. This all brings us back to SCOTUS who approved the sale of politicians and elections while taking away civil rights and are somehow in charge of our sex lives. Will any of this change if a Democrat is elected in 2016? And what happens to this country if a Republican is in the White House? There is still much that can be taken away if or when they gain the presidency. I’m glad I am old, kicking 80 in the butt, won’t be around to see the worst of it and what happens to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. PLAYING politics is the problem; politics isn’t a game, it is a life-or-death situation and most Americans are gasping to hang on.

  18. JoAnn, au contraire, I suspect politics is a game just as most basic social interactions are games, silly human games we all play unconsciously by assuming certain roles, switching roles, and continuing the game ad nauseam. I believe Dr Eric Berne pretty well covered the topic with his classic, “Games People Play”.

  19. OK, Barb. I will pose a question which will expose how much we know about economics and the state of Indiana. This state once had the most advanced and expansive transportation system of any state in all of America. It lasted from the 1930s into the 50s. It was very successful and efficient until it was undermined by big oil interests. It provided service to every major city in Indiana, except one. Guess which one.

  20. Found this post on Facebook and felt the need to add the quote to this blog; it plays with politics but is profound in it’s content as it reflects today’s GOP standards.

    Sign posted in front of the Church of Polydeism; “If a tree falls in the forest and Fox News isn’t there to cover it, is it still Obama’s fault?”

    Polydeism is the belief that the universe was the creation of multiple Gods, per Wikipedia

  21. I am reminded of the time that there was no permanent Director of the National Institutes of Health when President Reagan took office. Although prior to Reagan, that position had been appointed based on scientific merit, after he took office any potential Director had to pass the anti-abortion litmus test. I took him a while to find someone.

  22. Now we can applaud the Republicans for threatening immediate action against Pres Obama’s attempt at ending the gridlock over immigration reforms. The republicans also now include Senator Donnelly. And thank god Dan Coats came out with such a focused and relevant op-ed in Monday’s Star. I don’t think I could have expressed the republican’s positions on so many issues with such clarity. It states that republicans now have their chance to work with the pres and get things done, then quickly degenerates into what’s wrong with the pres, including a list of his sins. I’m sure the senator was so sincere and well-intentioned, as always. Coats and the other republicans are adrift without a clue, without a single resonant idea about anything.

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