Managing the News: Bush Hates Science Meme Raised Again by MSM
Updated with link below fold.
Yesterday's testimony by a disaffected former Bush official gave the mainstream media the opportunity to resurrect a favored meme: President Bush hates science.
Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona
yesterday testified before a House committee on White House meddling in
Carmona's speeches. Of course, Drs. C. Everett Koop and David Satcher
also complained of political meddling from the Reagan and Clinton
administrations respectively, but this fact was buried deep in the print accounts I've read.
But rather than exploring the complaints of political interference as a "systemic problem"-- Carmona's words -- that transcend party line and administration, news coverage in the mainstream media has sought to single out the Bush administration as anti-science.
Of course, many libertarians and conservatives might argue that the office of Surgeon General is outdated or unnecessary, a relic of a bygone era rendered pointless in the age of widely-disseminated medical information. Indeed, if presidential meddling is a "systemic problem," then isn't some media focus on legislative remedy called for?
And on the other hand, if the office of surgeon general is to be retained,
is it really such a big deal that a president would want an appointee in that office, who serves at his pleasure, to avoid certain controversial matters that would place the surgeon general in the position of advocating something that expressly contradicts the policy of the presidential administration?
But it seems those questions were not what the spin doctors in the media ordered.
Here are the first few paragraphs of coverage from Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the LA Times wherein the Bush White House is accused of censorship and political meddling:
WASHINGTON -- President Bush's first surgeon general testified Tuesday that his speeches were censored to match administration political positions and that he was prevented from giving the public accurate scientific information on issues such as stem cell research and teen pregnancy prevention.
"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried," Dr. Richard Carmona, who was surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, told a congressional committee. "The job of surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation -- not the doctor of a political party."
Early in the Bush administration, when the issue of federal funding for stem cell research arose, Carmona said, he felt he could play an educational role by discussing the latest scientific research. Instead, he said, he was told to "stand down" because the White House had already decided to limit stem cell studies. He said administration appointees who reviewed his speech texts deleted references to stem cells.
His testimony drew a pointed rebuke from the White House. Officials suggested that any breakdown in communicating health information to the American people was ultimately his failure.
"Dr. Carmona was given the authority and had the obligation to be the leading voice for the health of all Americans," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.
The Washington Post went a step further, tying Carmona's complaints to those of a former NASA scientist who complained about the Bush administration's stance on climate change policy:
He is the latest in a string of government employees to complain that ideology is trumping science in the Bush administration.
In January, the leader of the National Institutes of Health's task force on stem cells, Story Landis, said that because of the Bush policy -- which aims to protect three-day-old embryos -- the nation is "missing out on possible breakthroughs." And in March, NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni called the Bush policy "shortsighted."
Last year, NASA scientist James E. Hansen and other federal climate researchers said the Bush administration had made it hard for them to speak in a forthright manner about global warming. In 2005, Susan F. Wood, an assistant FDA commissioner and director of the agency's Office of Women's Health, resigned her post, citing her frustration with political interference that was delaying approval of over-the-counter sales of Plan B.
Of course Hansen has been a media darling as the MSM have heavily promoted alarmist claims about manmade global warming by Hansen and others. But nevermind that Hansen's science is not holy writ. In fact, as NewsBusters contributor Noel Sheppard wrote last month, Hansen has been debunked on a few claims by fellow scientists.
But that's an inconvenient truth when you're attempting to manage the news with liberal storylines rather than objectively relay facts to news consumers.
Update (14:07 EDT): Sean Hackbarth of The American Mind points out what he sees as a lame line of attack from Carmona, that the Bushies hate the Special Olympics. Below is an excerpt:
A line of discussion involved the Special Olympics: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.
When asked after the hearing if that “prominent family” was the Kennedys, Dr. Carmona responded, "You said it. I didn’t."
Dr. Carmona refused to name names publicly. I wish he did because his story clashes with President Bush’s praise of the Special Olympics and Eunice Kennedy Shriver its founder.
Dr. Carmona admits to being “politically naïve” (NY Times reporter Gardiner Harris’ words) so I think he took the question helping the Kennedys more seriously than it should have been. Carmona’s other accusations could be just as weak.
The NY Times could have done exactly what I just did to give a fuller look at Carmona’s accusation and the Bush administration.