Work has a way of interfering with the role of the Commentariat. I was able to watch the CNN debate last night but I am trying to work through the interferences to be able to post my impressions.
The debate was preceded by the news that former candidate and former Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota had endorsed Mitt Romney, followed in short order by the endorsement of Rick Perry by Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Overshadowing the Pawlenty endorsement was the background item that the Romney campaign had agreed to pay Pawlenty's campaign debts, “which somewhat devalues the power of Pawlenty's endorsement.”
The principal impression that I am left with is the exchange between Bachmann and Perry on the Gardasil or HPV vaccination that Perry tried to institute in Texas in 2007. Bachmann has practically collapsed in the ratings since her win in the poll at Ames, Iowa, and the simultaneous entrance of Perry into the race, which shot him to the top of the pack in short order. Bachmann then, more than the others who attacked him, had to make the most of this debate. (Since the Gardasil topic is growing out of proportion, I
will have posted a more detailed description of the original issue.) Even with the information that was available to the public from the first debate involving Perry, it was clear that Bachmann, through her demeanor, tone, and choice of value-laden terms, was making a desperate move in trying to take him on. (Which was just fine with Romney.)
Bachmann was led into the exchange by the moderator, Wolf Blitzer, who spoke of the “little girls” involved in the programme, and asked Bachmann to reply as “a mom”. If I were a cynic, it would look like a set-up, and Blitzer didn’t ask Perry or the others to reply ‘as dads’.
Bachmann picked up on Blitzer’s description immediately: “I’m a mom. And I’m a mom of three children.” (Odd – during this campaign she has said she has five children. I have to assume she was saying that she has three daughters and she was rattled.) She then railed about “innocent little 12-year-old girls forced to have a government injection” despite the fact that Perry had just finished saying that the parents had an opt-out provision, so she knew that her use of the word “forced” was wrong. (Of course, Perry has been saying this for some time, so Bachmann is showing willful ignorance of the answer.) She then went on to compare the Gardasil programme to Obamacare.
The “forced to have a government injection” argument falls fatally flat in the face of all the other accepted programmes of this sort that were set up in the same way. You have no argument against injections against HPV (known to be a cause of cervical cancer – the second most common type of cancer in women) when you have no objection to inoculations against mumps, or measles, or rubella, or diphtheria, or pertussis, or tetanus, or hepatitis, or polio, or smallpox, &c, &c.
She went on to call Gardasil a “potentially dangerous drug” despite the reports on its incredible safety record in an exhaustive series of tests by the CDC, and after approval by the FDA. She then linked it – somehow – to Obamacare calling for the “morning-after abortion pill”.
For the sake of argument (and only for its sake since we would intrude into areas of privacy), one might ponder whether Bachmann has withheld a proven guard against cancer from her children, or any of the other ‘mandated’ vaccinations, simply because they were a required government programme.
Her next step was to rail against the “millions and potentially billions of dollars” that were made by Merck, the maker of Gardasil, as a result of Perry’s attempt (as if businesses somehow should not make a profit). But the Texas legislature, objecting to the governor’s mandate instead of legislation, voted to overturn the programme by a veto-proof majority, and Perry acquiesced by realising his error. (He has admitted this, repeatedly.) So Merck did not make Bachmann’s claim of an obscene profit because the programme was never instituted.
She accused Perry of instituting the programme in exchange for campaign contributions from Merck (some few thousands out of a total Perry campaign fund of some $30 million, with Merck contributions to politicians across 40 states amounting to about $2.5 million from 2000-2006). He was offended at the absurdity, but she replied that she was “offended for all the little girls and the parents that didn't have a choice”, again deliberately ignoring the fact that they did have a choice, in a programme that was never instituted anyway.
Her conduct on stage was bad enough, but Bachmann topped that after the debate, when she really shifted gears into demagoguery overdrive. She related to Fox News how a mother had approached her after the debate. "She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter."
What?! That’s incredible – literally. Does Bachmann have the name of this woman? Can CNN’s world-renowned investigative skills check through the list of attendees and find this person – I mean, this is really big news. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Absent this woman stepping forward with anything resembling evidence of the claim, and certainly absent any meaningful attempt to track down the source which led to this wild accusation, leaves Bachmann looking like the desperate rumor-monger that she looks like now.
And finally – my wife was surprised by the interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, aired the next morning, of Robin Roberts talking to former First Lady Laura Bush and Nancy Brinker about the new ‘Pink Ribbon, Red Ribbon’ initiative, a combination of such groups as the George W Bush Institute, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the State Department. This is a large attempt to attack the high incidence of cervical cancer and AIDS in Africa, “that 6.6 million people receive life-saving medicine”.
That’s great news. Tell me, what type of life-saving medicine is being used to combat cervical cancer?