George Bush’s former surgeon general told a House committee today that he was routinely muzzled from speaking out on public health issues by the White House.
On the one hand, no surprise: there’s been no end of critique that this admininstration is hostile to science when it doesn’t suit their politics. And he’s not the first former official to complain once he’s out from under their thumb.
On the other hand, though, it should be surprising: Richard Carmona served the president for four years. He stayed there as policies on stem cells, sex education, and other public health issues were determined. The telling quote:
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.
Unfortunately, this will go nowhere, I bet. Had he resigned in protest last year, rather than quietly, he may have created enough news to force some sort of change in policy (or at least rhetoric). The surgeon general, despite being a toothless position politically, has great influence popularly. But he missed his chance.
Trivia question: Why is the surgeon general a general? Because he runs the U.S. Public Health Service, a uniformed service of the U.S. government, alongside the four armed forces and the U.S. Coast Guard. So who is the Surgeon General’s boss? Bonus question: What is the other non-military uniformed service?