Ted Cruz's surgeon general lunacy: How he's resorted to embarrassing lies

The excuses are rolling in for why Dr. Vivek Murthy hasn't been confirmed as surgeon general. Ted Cruz's is amazing

Published October 21, 2014 2:26PM (EDT)

  (AP/Molly Riley)
(AP/Molly Riley)

By now it has come to the public's attention that the United States "does not have" a surgeon general. This isn't really true. There is an acting surgeon general right now named Boris Lushniak, who has a pretty impressive résumé himself. Poor Boris Lushniak. He's just sitting in his surgeon general's office all day like, What am I, chopped liver? In any event, this is not a post about Boris Lushniak. Sorry, guy.

What the federal government does not have is a confirmed surgeon general, the supposed face of public health. Dr. Vivek Murthy was nominated for the post last year and has sat for confirmation hearings. He has been approved by the Senate HELP committee. But his final confirmation vote in the full chamber has yet to come up.

This is because the National Rifle Association is mad about one of his tweets, and it's an election year. In 2012, Murthy tweeted, "Tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns, putting lives at risk b/c they're scared of NRA. Guns are a health care issue." If he'd known that he might get nominated a year later to be the next surgeon general, Murthy may have thought twice about putting a big old fat target on his back (a "target" -- like with guns!) for the NRA. The NRA announced its opposition to Murthy's nomination and said it would score the vote on his confirmation. This gave the Republicans all the excuses they needed -- they don't need any, actually -- to block yet another Obama nominee, and successfully scared away enough red/purple-state Democrats to prevent Murthy from securing even a 50-vote majority.

This was silly for a few reasons: for one, the dude tweeted something. And then there's the strange belief that 32,000 gun deaths per year somehow isn't a worrying health issue. Guns are a health issue because when people get shot it does all sorts of bad things to their health, like kills them or paralyzes them or, at best, seriously wounds them. Anyway, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy would not be out there confiscating everyone's guns. Too bad. He tweeted something.

Chatter about Murthy's stalled nomination has seeped back into the news now that The Ebola is in full swing. Everyone agrees that the disease, which three (3) people in the United States have had, is a major national public health emergency that will kill us all because President Obama spends too much time golfing and fundraising, etc. It would be a nice time to have a surgeon general. Why have Republicans and conservative Democrats blocked his nomination?

The best answer thus far comes from some junior senator from Texas whose name you don't hear very often ... what is it ... Cruz? Ted Cruz. Interesting chap. Get a load of this explanation for why Murthy hasn't been confirmed. Turns out he's not even a "health professional" -- Whoa, if true:

CROWLEY: Do you think it would have helped … 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.

Hmm, he appears to have a fairly solid résumé as a "health professional." Nowhere on his résumé did he serve as a professional anti-gun activist. It's weird for Ted Cruz to say that, then.

Murthy deserves to be confirmed just on the principle that he's a qualified health professional who deserves to be confirmed. That may happen in the lame-duck, when conservative Democrats feel liberated and no longer have to vote against everything for dumb reasons. Or President Obama will just nominate someone else, and the world will move on.

But as good and decent and indicative of a functioning legislature as it would be to have a confirmed surgeon general in place, let's not pretend it makes any difference in the supposedly epoch-defining struggle against Ebola (hysteria). There is no way that, as Candy Crowley put it, a surgeon general would be able to "kind of calm what has become the fear of Ebola." A couple of people in the United States have gotten the virus yet everyone is freaking out, because it's an election season and the media famously sucks. There's no stopping that train.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

MORE FROM Jim Newell

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Boris Lushniak Ebola Editor's Picks Gop Senate Surgeon General Ted Cruz The Right Vivek Murthy