Friday, 16 September 2011

“Crony Capitalism” And The HPV Vaccine?

Any candidate's record should be open for discussion when they run for dog catcher, let alone president of the United States. Still, it has been an interesting and illuminating experience to watch Rick Perry take heavy fire for his HPV vaccine policy as Texas Governor.

Now, when I first heard this, my gut reaction was “Good for Perry!” Most GOP opposition to the HPV vaccine, after all, is a sub-set of their opposition to sex education, contraception, and generally any public acknowledgement that teenagers might not spend their lazy Friday evenings at Bible study every week.

Well I owe my mom $5 (long story) because by Jove there is a real, bona-fide vaccine conspiracy afoot in Texas!

While the Republican representatives and senators who controlled the Legislature were dumbfounded and getting angry, Democrats were just dumbfounded. Perry was going to make every girl in Texas get a shot to prevent a sexually transmitted disease? From a political party that was all about abstinence, this didn't compute. 
But then the name Mike Toomey came up. Toomey had been Perry's chief of staff and was one of his closest political allies. 
"It came out pretty quick that Toomey had been paid several hundred thousand dollars to lobby for Merck, and as soon as we heard that, it was like, 'OK, now we know what's going on,' " Dunnam says.

Michele Bachmann, who has collected a pretty unremarkable set of paymasters, has been hammering Perry relentlessly with her “crony capitalism” line (and, admittedly, it's not only a snappy line, but a pretty fair and succint indictment of what Rick Perry is all about), but may have muddled her response to this, unfortunately. A recent speech (reported by liberal aggregator and opinion outlet Raw Story) included this remarkable statement:

"As a parent of three daughters, I believe that parents are the ones who should decide if our young daughters should received injections for sexually transmitted diseases," she declared. "And so, whether its Obamacare or whether its Perrycare, I oppose any governor or president who mandates a family's health care choices." At the CNN Tea Party Express debate Monday, Bachmann had attacked Perry for attempting to issue the mandate after vaccine maker Merck contributed to his campaign. The next day she went even further, claiming that mental retardation was a "very real concern" with the drug. 
The Center for Disease Control recommends the vaccine and maintains that it is safe.

Bachman's salad of valid concerns (Merck contributions are certainly fishy in this case) and fever-swamp jabbering (Obamacare/Perrycare/mental retardation) is problematic. She could focus her critique here, and really take it to Perry, who has a huge weak spot when it comes to unsavory favors and relationships in his tenure as Governor.

I'm currently agnostic on the vaccines/CDC question (full disclosure: my mom is convinced of the link between the initial commercial flu shot and autism). Leaving that aside, if Bachmann had decided to focus only on Perry's lobbyist connections, it would have been a good, clean shot. Now Bachmann haters on the left and right can conflate her (valid) criticism of corporate pretty boy Perry with her (kind of nutty) “Perrycare” statement.

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