No Guts

Where the Hell Is the Surgeon General?

We’ve got an Ebola crisis on our hands—and no surgeon general to deal with it. Blame the NRA, but Obama and the Senate Democrats, too.

10.09.14 9:55 AM ET

When the Sunday morning TV shows needed to talk to an official with the Obama administration about the deadly Ebola virus on American soil, longtime senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer was sent out to reassure the American people.

Don’t get me wrong. Dan’s a nice guy, but when there is a health crisis in this country, I want to hear from a doctor, not a political guy with no health experience at all.

But thanks to the National Rifle Association, impotent Senate Democrats, and an Obama White House unwilling to engage in a fierce battle for one of its nominees, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy isn’t the person who is speaking to the nation.

In fact, November 14 will mark the one-year anniversary of President Obama appointing Murthy as surgeon general, replacing Dr. Regina Benjamin. Murthy had his Senate confirmation hearings in February, but since then? Nothing. All we’ve seen is the kind of bullshit political games that come to define this cesspool known as Washington, D.C., which does more to drive good people away from public service.

What are the crimes Murthy has committed? He hasn’t kissed the ass of the National Rifle Association, and has called for gun restrictions in order to keep more Americans healthy.

That’s right. A doctor, whose job is to treat the sick and to actually keep folks alive and make their lives better, is being delayed ascension to the nation’s top medical spot because he believes that too many Americans are being shot and killed.

And because you have a bunch of weak, impotent, no-guts Democrats who are more focused on their re-election instead of standing up for a medical doctor, Murthy has been twisting in the wind for the last 11 months, and based on previous judicial battles, may never get to serve in the job.

In a March 14 piece in The New York Times, Jeremy Peters wrote about the battle over Murthy. “We are recalibrating our strategy around his floor vote,” he quoted one senior White House official as saying, who added that a range of options was being discussed. They included working with Democratic leaders to gain more support, delaying a vote until after the midterm elections, or allowing Dr. Murthy to withdraw.

“We expect him to ultimately get confirmed,” the official added, declining to be named because no final strategy has been decided. Seven months later, Murthy is still waiting. I guess that White House confirmation strategy is a well-kept secret.

The numbers regarding gun violence in America are clear: it’s a national epidemic.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says:

-On average, 32 Americans are murdered with guns every day, and 140 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.

-An average of eight children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.

-The lifetime medical cost for all gun violence victims in the United States is estimated at $2.3 billion, with almost half the costs borne by taxpayers.

America’s doctors, especially those serving in emergency trauma centers, see the carnage first hand. They know the real toll of gun violence. But doctors don’t discriminate. They want motorcyclists to put on helmets; folks not to drink and drive; for all of us to eat healthier in order to live more productive lives.

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Using the NRA’s logic, any group that doesn’t want to hear that needs to rise up and protest any appointment of the U.S. Surgeon General.

But the NRA is a bunch of cowardly bullies. They have tons of money and are willing to spend it against candidates who would dare support a doctor who believes in gun control. Wow, that is so bad for America.

And the Obama administration needs to share some blame for this. They know Murthy’s stance on gun control, and they should have aggressively stood by him. Why appoint the man if you know his views may tick off a powerful lobbying group and cause senators from your own party to run for cover?

Murthy has no business sitting around and waiting to be confirmed. The Obama administration should have been raising holy hell, demanding that a pre-eminent doctor get his vote on the Senate floor. They should have led a campaign making it clear that Murthy would be America’s doctor, and should care about the well-being of its citizens. Send Obama to the American Medical Association and the National Medical Association with Murthy in tow to make the case. Use him as the poster child for a nasty, devilish lobbying group being the de facto fourth branch of government.

But instead, they chose to tuck and run, hoping those same impotent Senate Democrats hold onto their seats in the midterm election. So what happens when they don’t? Republicans will control the place then and prevent any Obama nominee from seeing the light of day.

Change? Hope? Remember that? I’m hoping the Obama administration has a change of heart in the next two years and learns to fight for their nominees instead of kowtowing to the NRA, Republicans and their own sorry party members.

I’m not holding my breath.