Former surgeon general details Bush administration interference

More details on how the administration has put politics over policy.

By Alex Koppelman

Published July 11, 2007 1:04PM (EDT)

As the Senate prepares to hold hearings to consider the nomination of Dr. James Holsinger Jr., who has come under fire for a perceived anti-gay bias, a House committee held hearings Tuesday at which the man he's replacing gave another detailed insight into how the Bush administration distorts or ignores science for politics.

In his testimony, former Surgeon General Richard Carmona said, according to a New York Times roundup today, that "on issue after issue ... the administration made decisions about important public health issues based solely on political considerations, not scientific ones.

"'I was told to stay away from those because we've already decided which way we want to go,' Dr. Carmona said."

Carmona detailed a long list of how the administration had pushed him to be more supportive of the administration in his speeches and reports, and how it ignored scientific evidence in favor of its own political needs. He was told to mention the president three times on every page of his speeches and told not to speak about stem cell research, for example. A report on global health has not been released, Carmona said, because he would not infuse it with positive references to what the Bush administration was doing on that front. And then, of course, there was the old administration favorite, abstinence-only sex education, which has repeatedly been shown to be ineffective.

"[T]here was already a policy in place that did not want to hear the science but wanted to preach abstinence only," Carmona said, "but I felt that was scientifically incorrect."

Perhaps most telling about Carmona's testimony, though, was the response from Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokesperson. Lawrimore followed the usual Bush administration strategy for dealing with a former employee who speaks out of school: Attack. "It's disappointing to us," the Times quotes Lawrimore as saying, "if he failed to use this position to the fullest extent in advocating for policies he thought were in the best interests of the nation."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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