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Posted by on Jul 29, 2007 in Health, Politics | 13 comments

Report Blocked By Bush Aide For Not Being Political

Add this to growing evidence (almost a story a day) that this administration is one of the most politicized in American history:

A surgeon general’s report in 2006 that called on Americans to help tackle global health problems has been kept from the public by a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health, chiefly because the report did not promote the administration’s policy accomplishments, according to current and former public health officials.

The report described the link between poverty and poor health, urged the U.S. government to help combat widespread diseases as a key aim of its foreign policy, and called on corporations to help improve health conditions in the countries where they operate. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post.

And what the Post found does not cast this administration in a good light:

Three people directly involved in its preparation said its publication was blocked by William R. Steiger, a specialist in education and a scholar of Latin American history whose family has long ties to President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Since 2001, Steiger has run the Office of Global Health Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Note the “three people.” The Post was using a highly credible journalistic standard (taught at many journalism schools) to seek confirmation from several people. Can they all be dismissed as people who hate Republicans?

Richard H. Carmona, who commissioned the “Call to Action on Global Health” while serving as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, recently cited its suppression as an example of the Bush administration’s frequent efforts during his tenure to give scientific documents a political twist. At a July 10 House committee hearing, Carmona did not cite Steiger by name or detail the report’s contents and its implications for American public health.

Carmona told lawmakers that, as he fought to release the document, he was “called in and again admonished . . . via a senior official who said, ‘You don’t get it.’ ” He said a senior official told him that “this will be a political document, or it will not be released.”

And so the battle ensued:

After a long struggle that pitted top scientific and medical experts inside and outside the government against Steiger and his political bosses, Carmona refused to make the requested changes, according to the officials. Carmona engaged in similar fights over other public health reports, including an unpublished report on prison health. A few days before the end of his term as the nation’s senior medical officer, he was abruptly told he would not be reappointed.

Steiger did not return a phone call seeking his comment. But he said in a written statement released by an HHS spokesman Friday that the report contained information that was “often inaccurate or out-of-date and it lacked analysis and focus.”

There are several things about this report:

(1) Historians will have a field day with this administration.
There are many news reports now about issues where the administration nixed scientific information or tried to suppress information or attempted to politicize in a way that past administrations have not done. Historians will take these strands and weave them together. There is a PATTERN.

(2) The press is clearly hot on the heels of the administration.
And there clearly are sources and whistle-blowers (official or otherwise) who are now coming forward to give media types information.

(3) None of this will help George Bush’s polling numbers or his clout in Congress.
News helps weave an image tapestry and the emerging one on SEVERAL fronts (the refusal to let administration members testify to Congress, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ widely-panned sworn testimony and the refusal to fire him, misinformation leading up to the Iraq war, the constantly moving the goalposts on reports on the Iraq war etc…). is of an administration that cannot be trusted in its assertions. Anything said by the administration now is suspect because it could either be incomplete or…”at variance” with the truth.

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