Cowardice, Hypocrisy, and Lies, or, Your Republican Party

Dr. Vivek Murthy, nominated by President Obama to serve as Surgeon General, cannot get a vote in the Senate.

Congress knows more than doctors can about the healthful ways of man?

It’s the old joke, again: How do you know when a Congressman is lying? His lips are moving.

Follow the bouncing Benen:

Last week, as public anxiety over Ebola grew, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) issued a statement demanding that the White House withdraw Dr. Vivek Murthy’s nomination to be Surgeon General. “Now more than ever, our nation needs to have an experienced and effective Surgeon General to help coordinate the government’s Ebola strategy,” the GOP senator argued. “It has been clear for almost a year that the president’s nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy is not the right person for this consequential job.

Except, it’s not “clear” at all.” Congressional Republicans seem to agree that it’s in the nation’s interests to have a Surgeon General, but they don’t want to take responsibility for derailing a qualified nominee. On the contrary, they now seem eager to blame President Obama for their knee-jerk obstructionism.

It really is this simple: The NRA does not like Dr. Vivek Murthy because he is among an overwhelming majority of doctors over 90%—who believe firearm violence presents a public health issue. Therefore, because the NRA disdains Dr. Murthy, he must not be properly qualified.

The Republican response has been about as predicted: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has a hold against Murthy’s nomination.

This weekend, Chuck Todd even went so far as to inquire of Sen. Roy Blunt about the holds. Benen notes the Missouri Republican’s attempt to blame President Obama:

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, for example, Chuck Todd asked Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) about the vacancy in the Surgeon General’s office. “This seems to be politics,” the host noted. “The NRA said they were going to score the vote, and suddenly everybody’s frozen. That seems a little petty in hindsight, does it not?”

Blunt replied, “Well, you know, if the president really ought to nominate people that can be confirmed to these jobs, and frankly, then we should confirm them.”

See what he did, there? If only President Obama would nominate a qualified nominee ....

Except, of course, for the obvious. He already has.

Indeed, Adam Peck of ThinkProgress noted that, in Blunt’s view, Harry Reid shares blame with President Obama.

Todd questioned the wisdom of giving the NRA any kind of influence over the country’s top public health position, but Blunt rejected the notion that the NRA played any role in Murthy’s confirmation. “I’m not sure that’s why, you’d have to ask Senator Reid why he hasn’t move that to the top of his list to be confirmed.”

After the NRA began publicly opposing Murthy’s nomination, several of Blunt’s Republican colleagues including Rand Paul, John Cornyn and John Barrasso said they too would move to block Murthy’s nomination, and Paul placed a hold on the nomination.

A two-word question for Senator Blunt: Nuclear option?

Essentially, the Missour Republican is demanding that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) find some way to remove the ability to place holds on nominations from the rest of the Senate. In other words, it’s Reid’s fault because the Senate hasn’t “gone nuclear” on holds. But we should note that this isn’t hypocrisy; rather, this is how Republicans govern—destroy everything until there is nothing left to do but the drowning in the bathtub. You know, a mercy killing.

Or perhaps we might look to Sen. Ted Cruz, the Republican freshman backbencher most infamous for staging coups in the House of Representatives. The Texas junior apparently does not include doctors among health professionals:

CROWLEY: You know, one of the things that has been brought up, of course — and, now, this has now entered the political arena, and the Democrats are charging you all with making politics of it, and vice versa.

So, the — the fact of the matter is that one of the things that’s brought up is, we haven’t had a surgeon general, who is the — kind of the nation’s leading public health official, at least the voice of it, for a year. Some Democrats and some Republicans had opposed the particular surgeon general the president had nominated.

Do you think it would have helped, A, if NIH and CDC had had a little more money, and, B, had there been a surgeon general in place to kind of calm what has become the fear of Ebola?

CRUZ: Look — look, of course we should have a surgeon general in place. And we don’t have one because President Obama, instead of nominating a health professional, he nominated someone who is an anti-gun activist.

CROWLEY: And a doctor.

CRUZ: And that individual didn’t have the votes in the Senate. He is a doctor. But where he’s made his name is…

CROWLEY: Yes, but that’s a health professional.


Cruz’s stumbling idiocy should be a spectacle unto itself, but given what passes for political argumentation, it’s just another pleasant Beltway Sunday. Still, though, at least Crowley tried.

Plenty of Cruz’s Republican fellows have undertaken an argument promoting their expertise by saying of climate science, “I’m not a scientist”. Strangely, this does not mean those members of Congress would look to scientists to inform them of the science. Rather, the line means they are smarter than the scientists for not having paid attention to what those specialists are saying. Ted Cruz is observably not a health care professional, yet apparently he knows more than doctors do about health and society.Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Then again, there is a backstory. There is always a backstory.

The short form: Congressional Republicans who howled about the idea of a policy czar starting pretty much from the beginning of President Obama’s term, including bills introduced to eliminate all the policy czars. Now, trying to run for office on fear in the face of an ebola crisis—though not so scary a crisis that the House intends to return from its extraordinary bonus vacation keeping them from casting politically damaging votes during election season—many Republicans called for the president to nominate an ebola czar.

And last week, the president did. That Republicans, including those who called for an ebola czar, are complaining now that he did is pretty much the expected course.

Rachel Maddow tried to distill the nonsense on her show last week; it’s something of a spectacle in and of itself, as any attempt to parse conservative excrement is bound to be.

Meanwhile, a reminder about equivocation: While the news media often treat political news as a back-and-forth, and reporters no longer report facts but recite quotes as if they were stenographers, the truth is far more subtle than the contemporary journalist seems prepared to deal with. In truth, the only real question of Dr. Murthy’s qualifications is political. Given the list of public health experts who support Murthy’s nomination, the question eventually arises whether Congressional Republicans really do know more about public health than doctors.

Of course, that would be a stupid question given the clarity of the answer already before us: Of course Ted Cruz knows more than doctors. That’s why he’s a U.S. Senator. From Texas.

Oh, and Sen. Blunt? Perhaps some would recall how Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, stumbled over the question of whether or not a woman’s employer had the right to decide what medicines she was allowed? The piece of legislation involved there was the Blunt-Rubio Amendment. Yeah. That will tell you a bit about Roy Blunt’s outlook on health care, because if there is one expert who needs to be at the table with you and your doctor, it’s your boss.

And that, just because we’re on the subject of health and drowning in the bathtub, is why Republicans want to drown government in the bathtub. That is to say, they hope to return political power to the people—the corporate people.


Benen, Steve. “GOP blames Obama for obstruction on Surgeon General”. msnbc. 20 October 2014.

Weisser, Mike. “Gun Violence Is a Public Health Issue—Doctors Should Treat It That Way”. The Huffington Post. 14 April 2014.

Peck, Adam. “After Blocking Surgeon General Nominee, Republican Blames Obama For Surgeon General Vacancy”. ThinkProgress. 19 October 2014.

CNN. State of the Union With Candy Crowley. Transcript. 19 October 2014.

Adler, Ben. “Meet the climate deniers who want to be president”. Grist. 20 August 2014.

Maddow, Rachel. “GOP forgets anti-czar nonsense, calls for Ebola czar”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 17 October 2014.

Cox Barrett, Liz. “Jim Lehrer on Billy Bob, Reports of Rain and Stenography As Journalism”. Columbia Journalism Review. 2 June 2006.

Serwer, Adam. “Romney Didn’t Know What the Blunt Amendment Was”. Mother Jones. 29 February 2012.

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