National Commentary

Anything But Straight: Holy Singers From the Hymn Sheet

James W. Holsinger's controversial nomination for U.S. Surgeon General never made much sense. The last thing Bush's shattered presidency needed was another battle on Capitol Hill at a time when support for the war in Iraq was eroding among key Senators.

However, after Bush's former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona blasted the Administration this week for politicizing the office, the logic behind the Holzinger pick has become crystal clear.

Bush had to select a new Surgeon General who was a loyal apparatchik and unquestionably conservative, so the president's official policy to oppose sound science would never be questioned. Bush needed a willing crony he believed would filter the facts and selected a holy singer from the same right wing hymn sheet.

The testimony from Carmona in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee vacillated between disturbing and alarming. On nearly every crucial public health issue, Carmona was told either to spout the party line or make a beeline away from the topic.

"I was told to stay away from those [controversial issues] because we've already decided which way we want to go," Carmona testified.

In 2001, Bush made great theater when he visited top scientists pretending to be soliciting their advice on stem cells. This charade continued throughout his presidency, but Carmona confirmed that Bush was never truly serious and often muzzled him when he wanted to discuss a topic that held the promise of helping thousands of Americans suffering from debilitating illnesses.

"I was told to stand down and not speak about it," the former Surgeon General said. "It was removed from my speeches."

What remained in his public addresses, however, was mandated praise for the President and his policies. Carmona was commanded to mention Bush at least three times on every page of his speeches, according to The New York Times. Carmona was also ordered to "water down" a groundbreaking report on the dangers of secondhand smoke that was deliberately delayed for years. Additionally, the administration pressured him into ignoring the risk of global warming, with officials taking the position that the crisis was a liberal hoax.

Not surprisingly, Bush's grossly irresponsible and potentially murderous policy of "abstinence-only" education was suppressed. Carmona said he tried to stress the importance of contraceptives, but was rebuffed.

"However, there was already a policy in place that did not want to hear the science but wanted to preach abstinence only, but I felt the science was incorrect."

In a sickening turn, Carmona recounted how administration officials urged him to snub the Special Olympics because the Kennedy family was involved.

"I was specifically told by a senior person, 'why would you want to help those people?'" he recalled.

So, this pro-STD spreading, pro-global warming, pro-secondhand smoke, pro-Bush ass kissing, anti-stem cell cure, anti-Special Olympics administration needed a Surgeon General to parrot its political agenda. Into this filthy, dirt sucking villainous vacuum emerged Holsinger, a peculiar, homosexually-obsessed Holy Roller who started a Kentucky trailer church with an "ex-gay" ministry.

While this is hardly a rational pick for the nation's "Top Doctor" it is ideal for the Bush Administration. Having just had its credibility battered by Richard "Dr. No" Carmona, the president desperately had to find a "Dr. Yes." A cheerleading lackey was needed to rubberstamp Bush's anti-health policies. Based on Holsinger's backward views, he may fit the bill. I'm afraid if confirmed, Holsinger's press releases might sound like the Toni Basil song "Mickey."

"Oh Bushie you're so fine, science we will undermine, hey Bushie!"

This week, Holsinger's nomination is scheduled to go before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) Presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) sit on this committee.

The biggest hurdle to Holsinger's confirmation is an amateurish 1991 paper he wrote for the Methodist Church titled "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality," which portrayed homosexuality as more unnatural than Michael Jackson's face and more dangerous than a hunting trip with Dick Cheney. The report had all the scientific validity of the propaganda spit out by tobacco companies and the puerile voyeurism found in the Starr Report, detailing Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

I suspect that Holsinger will try to dodge this troubling paper by attempting to refocus the hearings on his advocacy of reducing childhood obesity. However, America needs to know if his devotion to fat is really just political cover for serving as a malleable mouthpiece in an Administration with a science policy that has no meat.