EXTRA Politics Aside

I’m fortunate to have many loyal and thoughtful readers. One recently shared the opinion that there should be no room for partisan politics in professional practices like medicine and science, or in fact-based reporting about those topics. And indeed, she is right.

My mentor, former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop was admired for many things. And foremost among them was his focus on keeping partisan politics out of public health and medical practice.

But I will mention (for the last time, I promise) that it was not me who brought partisan politics into the practice of medicine. That intrusion was brought about by the passing of President Obama’s healthcare bill. A sweeping, alarming, massive bill that brings the practice of medicine under government control and influence. This deed was done on a purely partisan political basis using some very unpalatable ethical practices as I described in a Daily Dispatch (which I will not repeat here, or again).

So, politics should be kept out of professional practices. But, unfortunately it may be too late for that for doctors and patients.

All that said, to be honest, in this election season, I am getting as tired as you must be about politics…so I won’t be devoting any more space to it here. At least I can do something about clearing that air within my own space.

Millions of Americans, and people around the world, are firm believers and practitioners of natural and nutritional medicine. They avail themselves of alternative, complementary, and integrative medicine in all its wonderful varieties. They are of both genders, all ages, and every political persuasion and philosophy.

As I’ve said in the past, the partisan politics of alternative/complementary medicine is unusual and does not split along traditional party lines. Party leaders who support natural medicine range from the conservative icon Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to the liberal stalwart Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), as well as others such as Peter DeFazio (D-OR).  

And opponents range from conservatives who pronounce against “cultural relativism” to liberals like Henry Waxman (D-CA) and the late Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who for all the good they did, held an outdated view that consumers needed to be “protected” from “unproven” natural therapies.

I am proud to have been and remain a strong supporter and friend of Sen. Harkin (as I have written in the Dispatch), regardless of party affiliation. He nominated me to serve as FDA Commissioner under President Bill Clinton—and I would have done so had I not just finally left the government to work in the private sector at that time.

Tom Harkin is a true leader who puts the interests of the public ahead of special interests and has made many political sacrifices to do so. As with Tom Harkin, I’m able to work with both sides to get things accomplished as we did on many medical research and public health education efforts working with Presidents Reagan, Bush I and Clinton.

But on the whole, as a whole, neither political party has been willing or able to really stand up to the academic-industrial-government-medical complex that restricts our choices in health and pushes ever more poisonous drugs and dangerous medical devices on the public.

And the big immovable obstacle remains lifelong government bureaucrats who never stand for election, can almost never be fired, and in fact are forbidden from even engaging in party politics by the provisions of the long-standing federal Hatch Act.

So when politicians quote President Reagan that, “government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem,” they are not talking about the less than 600 elected politicians who temporarily “occupy” Washington D.C. in the White House and the Congress. And it was President Clinton who said that the “era of big government is over”—well, it should be.

They’re talking about the legions of millions and millions of permanent government bureaucrats costing us money we don’t have for high salaries and lifelong benefits.  

These are never-elected nor replaced bureaucrats (often redundantly and harmfully “unionized” in public employee unions to boot) whose only hope is that things will never change (for them), regardless of the harm they do to the citizens and taxpayers. All while largely being able to ignore what any elected politician tries to do by simply waiting for the next election.

And the system drives out the best, leaving only what’s left of the rest of the self-perpetuating, self-reinforcing dregs. When I was in the government trying to work with (or around) them to make meaningful changes, these bureaucrats proudly called themselves “The B Team.” B was not for bureaucrat but for, “I was here B-fore you, and will still “B” here when you’re gone.” Health is too important to play bureaucratic waiting games.

I will do my best not to contribute to the hot air being produced this political season. But will continue to shine light on issues that directly affect the health of you, your family, and friends—and our great nation.