Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 6, 2009

SURGEON GENERAL GUPTA?.... I should concede at the outset that I don't watch CNN often, but I've caught Dr. Sanjay Gupta on occasion, and he strikes me as quite capable in discussing medical issues. With that in mind, Barack Obama could do a lot worse in a surgeon general.

President-elect Barack Obama has offered the job of surgeon general to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the neurosurgeon and correspondent for CNN and CBS, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.

Gupta has told administration officials that he wants the job, and the final vetting process is under way. He has asked for a few days to figure out the financial and logistical details of moving his family from Atlanta to Washington but is expected to accept the offer. [...]

The offer followed a two-hour Chicago meeting in November with Obama, who said that Gupta could be the highest-profile surgeon general in history and would have an expanded role in providing health policy advice, the sources said. Gupta later spoke with Tom Daschle, Obama's White House health czar and nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, and other advisers to the president-elect.

The Michigan-born son of Indian and Pakistani parents, Gupta has always been drawn to health policy. He was a White House fellow in the late 1990s, writing speeches and crafting policy for Hillary Clinton. His appointment would give the administration a prominent official of Southwest Asian descent and a skilled television spokesman.

When it comes to the politics, a certain 2007 incident regarding Gupta and filmmaker Michael Moore comes to mind, but putting that aside, Gupta seems like a strong choice. The responsibilities for a surgeon general are a little vague, but my sense is he/she is generally responsible for being a public health advocate, educating the public and being a spokesperson on medical and health issues. Given his work as a journalist, Gupta seems more than able to fill that role.

I vaguely recall a time when Surgeon General was a big deal. C. Everett Koop became a prominent national figure in the 1980s, and seemed to take the position from honorary title to leading public health official.

Other than Joycelyn Elders, who gained unwelcome notoriety, the position hasn't garnered much attention since. Quick: name the last Surgeon General. If you said, "Richard Carmona," give yourself a prize. If you know that Steven Galson* has been the acting surgeon general, you're probably either a relative or an employee of Dr. Galson.

Gupta would probably change this quickly, would likely be the highest-profile official since Koop, and could conceivably play a valuable role in advancing a reform campaign. Sounds good to me.

* corrected

Steve Benen 5:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (57)

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Sounds good to me as well.

And yet, I'm hearing friends gripe that he dissed Michael Moore. Since when didn't Michael Moore rule our world (in spite of what right-wingistan believes)??

Posted by: fourlegsgood on January 6, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Ack, "did"

U noes wut I meant. Seriously though, all these crazy litmus tests are making me crazy.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on January 6, 2009 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Krugman: The trouble with Sanjay Gupta

So apparently Obama plans to appoint CNN’s Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General. I don’t have a problem with Gupta’s qualifications. But I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko. You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.

What bothered me about the incident was that it was what Digby would call Village behavior: Moore is an outsider, he’s uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right. It’s sort of a minor-league version of the way people who pointed out in real time that Bush was misleading us into war are to this day considered less “serious” than people who waited until it was fashionable to reach that conclusion. And appointing Gupta now, although it’s a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way.

Posted by: Whut The Krugster Sez on January 6, 2009 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, I love you. I have a serious boy crush on you (even though you're married and a couple of decades younger than I.) I savor every word you write and have for years, but Gupta sucks. I have watched him on CNN and often walked away thinking WTF?

Ok, fine, if this is to be a media role, but as far as Gupta himself, he is a paid whore with too much of a populist streak (and that goes for his sucking up to the corporate masters both in the media and in healthcare in general).

I am sorely disappointed in this selection. I see national healthcare slipping away (and right after paying THREE $50 copayments (for drugs which are over the counter in Canada and costs pennies to dollars what I pay, or cost less than my copay completely if they are scripted).

We are not going to see that change happen and I am pissed. But hey, we live in the greatest country on the planet. Who needs healthcare? We can just savor our greatness.

Gupta? Fuck.

Posted by: MsJoanne on January 6, 2009 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

The Michael Moore incident proves to me that he is more interested in politics than science. For those who don't recall, I'll let Michael Moore explain. Even after being corrected on one thing, Gupta continued to defend himself using half truths.

Posted by: Danp on January 6, 2009 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

I think the fact that there have been two Bush appointees in a relatively high-profile spot that we can't name is probably the highest honor a Bush appointee can attain.

Heckeva job, Carmona and Galsonhas! You didn't become infamous!

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on January 6, 2009 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Doc...it's hard to become infamous for doing nothing. It's not like any appointee of Bush actually believes in science so there is nothing to slam them for other than doing nothing.

Posted by: MsJoanne on January 6, 2009 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

I think Obama wants to put a face most people trust to push healthcare issues. I think Gupta is not great on issues of woo and autism, but the fact that everyone knows him could be a plus if we go back to reality based health information (like birth control). I think he has an upside, and a lot of downside. Which is more powerful, we'll soon see.

Posted by: Pinko Punko on January 6, 2009 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Krugster and Danp - No offense, but we really need to separate the wheat from the chaff here. I could understand if this Gupta guy was some villain in a Moore film, dodging Moore's inquiries of Gupta's unethical behavior, but a minor media tiff is hardly a proper litmus test. If anything, I'd guess the guy made some stupid goofs and was too proud to admit his mistake; not as a political attack against Moore, but as a public figure who had just made an ass of himself. While admitting fault is admirable, it's done far less often than we'd like. I'm just glad I don't have folks taping my debates. To my understanding, the Surgeon General is primarily just a PR spot and isn't going to have some huge influence on health policy. This is hardly the accountability moment you guys are making it out to be.

I should add that I have no idea who Gupta is and think that if anyone's seen enough of this guy on CNN to have a negative opinion about him, then they must watch CNN too much. TV news sucks. And yes, MsJoanne, I'm looking in your direction.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on January 6, 2009 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

it is precisely because he is a Villager, who also happens to be a doctor, that makes him well suited.

he wont be making health care reform policy - Obama and Daschle will be. but the CNNs of the world could easily pooh-pooh "Obamacare". . . unless it is Gupta selling it. (A) the general public likes him and (B) he knows all of the players at CNN and how to move stories, how to keep his side unchallenged there, etc.

i saw the Moore episode; neither had the numbers exactly right (though Moore was closer), both were quibbling through an interview that clearly was not going well. but i never thought it was as much of an "attack" as Moore supporters made it out to be, and over several days I repeatedly heard Gupta say things to suggest that on the big-picture issues he largely agreed with Moore. and lets face it: Gupta wouldn't be the first person that Moore brought out the worst in.

Posted by: zeitgeist on January 6, 2009 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Carmona did make headlines once - when he said that homosexual sex was unnatural and unhealthy. He also told a congressional committee the administration would not let him talk about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues.

Dr. Biobrain - read the link I posted above and see if you really think Gupta merely made some stupid goofs. I would argue he bent over backwards to find a way to discredit Moore's film. I would also point out that the expert he uses was the head of a Big Pharma association, though he refers to him merely as a professor from Vandy.

Posted by: Danp on January 6, 2009 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

it's hard to become infamous for doing nothing.

But MsJoanne, doing nothing is exactly what got Brownie in trouble.

Besides, idle hands are the tools of the devil, particularly if those hands belong to a Republican. After all, there are only two kinds of Republicans: The ones who are smart enough to rip-off the system and the ones who aren't. No, Carmona and Galsonhas must have been a couple of real boobs to not get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Anyone smart enough to get away with it would have been too smart to join the Bushies in the first place.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on January 6, 2009 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps it's the academic in me but I think I would have liked to have seen someone with more clinical credentials than media ones. I've never particularly cared for Sanjay Gupta when I've seen him on CNN but that's probably because it seems as if he oversimplifies things...which may be necessary in that setting. Ben Carson, the director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins would have been a more interesting and serious choice I think.

Posted by: Heather on January 6, 2009 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

As I recall, Gupta just wanted Moore to use two sets of data from the same year or something. Moore had some reason for using a different year for one of the sets. Gupta called this "fudging the facts", because it was comparing apples to oranges, when in fact it was more like comparing green apples to red apples. Slightly different, but close enough for most viewers. As I recall, the data points were within 10% anyway.

I also recall from this incident that Moore went into a big hissy fit, and Gupta was steady as a rock.

So one plus and one minus for SG, the next SG.

Posted by: Franklin on January 6, 2009 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

I think Gupta is a great choice. He sucks as a reporter. Getting him off CNN will improve CNN. Of course, the promotion will leave CNN without a single "science" reporter of any stripe, but what the hell, Americans don't need to know about science anyway.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 6, 2009 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

And the Howard Dean lockout is complete. As anyone who paid attention to Obama knew all along, cautious wonkdom and empty celebrity has triumphed completely over bold ideas. Look for the Dems to go down to midterm defeat in 10 (even considering how much they have going for them and how lttle the Repubs), as they return to Rahm Emmanuel's "keystate" strategy. And the war within the party goes on.

As far as Gupta's qualifications, I'll go with MsJoanne completely. With the exception of the boy crush, of course. I mean the guy's good, but there's a limit.

Posted by: ericfree on January 6, 2009 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

ericfree, that is my one main complaint with the Gupta nom - he isn't Dr. Dean.

while the official party may be a bunch of ingrates, i for one am thankful for Dean's contributions over the past 6 years or so, since he started his campaign.

Posted by: zeitgeist on January 6, 2009 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

it was more like comparing green apples to red apples.

The problem with this argument is that Moore issued a set of numbers (US vs Cuba cost of health care). Gupta called it wrong, though he later had to admit his own number was wrong. But more importantly, Moore chose to use the HHS number, because it was the US Government's own number. Since the HHS didn't provide a number for Cuba, Moore used a number from the BBC. Gupta took both his numbers from the WHO. The Cuban numbers were nearly identical ($239/yr vs $251). The bigger difference was the US number ($7000 vs $6096). For Gupta to merely assert that the HHS number was wrong without even asking where the number came from is inexcusable. Yet that he continued to defend.

Posted by: Danp on January 6, 2009 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

I think Gupta is not a good choice for surgeon general. I blog about HHS, the USPHS (the uniformed branch to which the SG is attached) and the use of nurses and physicians as agents of abuse and torture by USPHS, which allowed its DIHS to migrate into ICE and DHS, and in which no one is reporting or investigating.

Gupta reports from a traditional Wall Street Journal Republican free market viewpoint on health issues. He identifies physician, hospitals, insurers and pharma as the sole healthcare stakeholders. He is not conversant on public health issues as they bridge government agencies such as the CDC, FDA, CMS and local and state agencies. He isn't conversant at all about professional nursing issues. He speaks to tabloid, health in a pill, types of messaging.

Carmona would have actually benn OK to reappoint in the role. He is a trauma surgeon with lots of emergency preparedness experience. And what was never reported was that he testified that he offered to be a first responder to Katrina, and he wasn't permitted to go. He has the goods on a lot of Bush/Leavitt muck, and in my admittedly to be dismissed out of hand because I'm a nurse opinion, and thus never have any credibility, Obama could hit a homer by letting Carmona run loose.

Another name that will escape you is John Agwunobi and his brother. John was an Asst. HHS Sec. under Leavitt who spewed wrong and dangerous information on a government blog that leavitt and his Ogilvy PR firm that you paid for dishonestly called the HHS Leadership Blog. Shortly after, Agwunobi fled and went directly to Wal-Mart as its ahem - Director of Health and Wellness. His brother has been named in the Florida Medicaid scam, along with Bush bro Jeb - and that Agwunobi had a short run as the CEO of Grady in Atlanta. And there's the connection with Gupta - another Georgia product.





Posted by: Annie on January 6, 2009 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Doc, I don't watch CNN often, I am more of a channel surfer but I have seen him a few times, which was enough to make me go Ewwww.

As for Brownie, would he have become infamous had there not been a disaster? No. What type of disaster would the SG oversee? Short of what I would expect from any loyal bushie, abstinence only, AIDS is a gay disease, stem cell research is against god, and the like.

Infamy is nothing for a bushie...unless something happens to call out their utter lack of qualifications...which we all know they all have (or don't, depending upon how you wish to view it. :-D )

Posted by: MsJoanne on January 6, 2009 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Except that most real strong advocates for public health do not run around repeating conservative talking points about why a European-style healthcare system would be bad.

And this is one of the most important issues facing the country. If you're not for at the very least a single-payer system, you're not for healthcare for most Americans.

So, as far as I'm concerned, Gupta's argument with Michael Moore is sufficient to disqualify him for the position.

Sure, it's nice that he has some medical qualifications, unlike Bush's appointees (a gynecologist who claims he anally raped his wife because he couldn't tell the difference between her vagina and her anus?), but you have to know that there are thousands of doctors in the United States who have those qualifications without being shills for right-wing lies.

Posted by: Avedon on January 6, 2009 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

I think we could do better than Sanjay Gupta for the position. Nothing against him personally, but Koop was an effective advocate because he was a solid moral presence with tremendous gravitas.
All Gupta has going for him is that he's a media personality who would be a nice smileyface on the tube. I'd really prefer a more scholarly type as surgeon general, my two cents.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on January 6, 2009 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Overall, the common theme with almost all of the gripes against Obama's less than perfect selections is this odd idea that they're all going to go off and do their own thing and speak their own minds. They're not, and if they do, they'll be replaced. These people work for Obama and it doesn't matter how progressive, moderate, centrist, or conservative they are, they'll say what they're supposed to say and that's it. And if that's not how Obama runs things then he's a huge fool and is damn lucky that he survived a two year presidential campaign without that happening. But as we saw during the campaign, his surrogates stuck to the talking points and he had no problems with letting anyone go who became a liability. And it worked. He ran a tight ship and we have no reason to believe things will be otherwise with him in the Whitehouse.

As for Gupta, he's going to support whatever Obama tells him to support and use his TV charm to woo the idiots who require that kind of thing. I mean, what do you think's going to happen? He'll add a "Just Kidding" after the Surgeon General warning on cigarettes? This is a PR position, not a policy position.

And why on earth would anyone want to doom Howard Dean with this sort of position? Just my opinion, but I think he'd be HORRIBLE in it. He doesn't want to be a figurehead warning people about the dangers of smoking. He wants to be a powerplayer. I don't know what his future holds for him, but really don't see why he'd want to be Surgeon General. If he's been campaigning for the slot, I'll stand corrected. But overall, I'm mystified at this idea that we should use ceremonial positions to reward intelligent Dems while punishing an empty-headed CNN doctor who might do quite well in the slot.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on January 6, 2009 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Atul Gawande for Surgeon General.

Posted by: Jim Bouman on January 6, 2009 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

I have absolutely nothing to contribute to the discussion of Gupta but, boy, oh boy... I nearly cried, when the link too me to the dear, old, clean-lined and user-friendly Carpetbagger Report.

Posted by: exlibra on January 6, 2009 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Gupta's fine. But we don't need the position of Surgen General.

Posted by: civitas on January 6, 2009 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

My comment went into moderation hell, so I am trying to recreate at least some of it:

I have been blogging about the surgeon general role and Leavitt at Bush's HHS - essentially weaponizing that agency to use against the citizenry via its latest secret midnight rule subverting patient choice in the name of provider conscience.

But Gupta is NOT a good choice. He reports using the Wall Street Journal free market framework of only referencing hospitals, phyisicians, pharma and commercial insurers as healthcare stakeholders. He neglects the profession which provides for over 95% of all reimbursed healthcare services - professional nursing.. He treats patients in a submissive and dismissive, pop a pill and buy the mainstream media advertiser's crap messaging.

Obama could have done much, much worse than re-appointing Rich Carmona to the spot. Carmona is a trauma surgeon with oodles of emergency preparedness experience and expertise. He testified that he offered to serve as a first responder on scene during Katrina, and that he was refused. He also had his messaging and science subverted by Bushies. He would have been great to help to flush out the HHS burrowed Bush appointees.

No one has yet reported on the use of USPHS nurses and physicians as agents of abuse and torture on immigrant detainees. No one has investigated how the DIHS under the USPHS magically "migrated" to ICE and DHS - which does not have a charged health mission. Carmona would be like a dog with a bone on that.

Moreover, Leavitt and an undersecretary, John Agwunobi (a USPHS commissioned officer) led a bogus blog moderated by the PR firm Ogilvy (Rick Perlstein has the scoop on Ogilvy and Nixon/Repubs, FYI). During that, Agwunobi presented wrong and dangerous information, and upon being called on that, he promptly fled HHS and went directly to Wal-Mart as its director of health and wellness - another Orwellian appointment. His brother, also a physician, has been implicated in the FL Medicaid Scam, along with - wait for it - Jeb Bush. And brother Agwunobi did a short stint as the boy wonder at Grady's hospital in Atlanta, thus closing the circle as Gupta is also a Georgia product.

Obama, as I keep repeating, is no progressive - and he's much more a mainstream Eisenhower Republican than a Democrat. The appointment of Gupta represents the status quo of the good 'ole boys" club.



Posted by: Annie on January 6, 2009 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

If you said, "Richard Carmona," give yourself a prize

I'd like to thank the Academy, my always-supportive husband and Jesus!

If you know that Steven Galson* has been the acting surgeon general, you're probably either a relative or an employee of Dr. Galson has.

Er, never mind.

Posted by: shortstop on January 6, 2009 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, if no one knows who it is right now, why not abolish it?
Saves some money and reduces government.
Good idea, right?

Posted by: Tmack on January 6, 2009 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

I think Obama wants to put a face most people trust to push healthcare issues.

That's really the point. Let's not underestimate how hard health care reform is going to be not just among those who have a strong financial interest in lying about the system, but also among those low-information voters who fall for every half-assed dire warning about quotas and socialism and poor quality of care. Gupta may be a cartoon character to me, but I'm not the one who has to be convinced we need reform.

Posted by: shortstop on January 6, 2009 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

I nearly cried, when the link too me to the dear, old, clean-lined and user-friendly Carpetbagger Report.

Lord, that place was a pure pleasure to look at and wander around in, wasn't it?

Posted by: shortstop on January 6, 2009 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

He's perfect.

Posted by: Kaye Curren on January 6, 2009 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

I'm an epidemiologist, formerly CDC. Carmona wasn't considered a hero while I was there but he gained my admiration for going "off message" on smoking and for testifying about interference on his report on global health (he wasn't allowed to mention the human right to health, which the Bush administration doesn't believe in). Previous SGs have also been independent. Will Gupta? I don't know but nothing I've seen suggests he will. You need some scientific background and not just savy media training for the job. It's a bad pick.

Posted by: john on January 6, 2009 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Not impressed by Gupta. Yes, he's a doc and a teevee personality but has he ever been an administrator? Don't see anything on the resume that says administrator. Whoever suggested Atul Gawande is thinking the way I am. I saw him on CSPAN a while back and he was talking about measuring outcomes objectively and even paying physicians based on outcomes. I think Gawande's thought a whole lot more about practicing medicine better which I think is what the SG is all about. And I have a problem witha 40+ yr old neurosurgeon/teevee personality who's probably worth several million bucks, who's concerned about his finances for a 4 yr position which would pay enough for at least his expenses.

Posted by: warren terrah on January 6, 2009 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

The reason you never heard of the Bush surgeons general is because Rove, Cheney & Co. muzzled them. This from Reuters in July 2007:

"The first U.S. surgeon general appointed by President George W. Bush accused the administration on Tuesday of political interference and muzzling him on key issues like embryonic stem cell research.

"'Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried,'" Dr. Richard Carmona, who served as the nation's top doctor from 2002 until 2006, told a House of Representatives committee."

Maybe the Bushies learned these tactics from Clinton who FIRED Elders for making the "controversial" remark that masturbation was a good thing. Sorry, but as far as I know the only people who disagree with that are the Pope & Nino Scalia (who cited the horrifying likelihood that the Lawrence v. Texas ruling would strike down anti-masturbation laws -- read the dissent -- I'm not making this up).

As for Gupta, some commenters have made better suggestions. Re: Gupta's arguments with Michael Moore, looks like the Obama transition team did't vet Gupta any better than they did Bill Richardson & crazy Rick Warren (and, mark my words, sleazy Billary Clinton).

The Constant Weader at www.RealityChex.com

Posted by: Marie Burns on January 6, 2009 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

You need some scientific background and not just savy media training for the job. It's a bad pick.

I agree it's a bad pick, but Gupta is a neurosurgeon.

Posted by: Danp on January 6, 2009 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

I happen to like Gupta and think he could be a pretty good Surgeon General. But I'm amused by your construction "I should concede at the outset that I don't watch CNN often." You know perfectly well that you're not "conceding," you're bragging...

Posted by: bcamarda on January 6, 2009 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously, Obama could pick Dr. Phil for the job and it just would not matter.

Posted by: civitas on January 6, 2009 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

Gupta showed strong corporate affiliation when he LIED? about the stats in MM's Sicko. Do we really want a Big Pharma rep in that position?

Posted by: Evergreen2U on January 6, 2009 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Gupta hosts "House Call" on CNN, contributes reports to CBS News, and writes a column for Time magazine. He is a neurosurgeon and is on the faculty at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. During the Clinton administration, he was a White House fellow and special adviser to then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In 2003, Gupta traveled to Iraq to cover the medical aspects of 2003 invasion of Iraq. While in Iraq, Gupta performed emergency surgery on both U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Gupta was embedded with a Marine medical unit at the time. A Marine named Jesus Vidana suffered a severe head injury and the Marines asked for Gupta's assistance because of his background in neurosurgery. Vidana survived and was sent back to the United States for rehabilitation.

Gupta was named one of the Sexiest Men of 2003 by People magazine.

One of People's Sexiest? What's not to like?

Seriously, without tipping completely into the "That Obama, he's a deep one" school, I can't help but wonder if this is a Sistah Souljah pick - that is, a not-so-subtle signal that the Michael Moores and DailyKossacks will not be running the Obama administration. (And if it is, I mildly approve.)

Posted by: Arachnae on January 6, 2009 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Bad, BAD HTMLer. the italics should have extended to the end of Gupta was named one of the Sexiest Men of 2003 by People magazine.

Posted by: Arachnae on January 6, 2009 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

that is, a not-so-subtle signal that the Michael Moores and DailyKossacks will not be running the Obama administration.

yeah, we don't want those crazies who expose our failed health care system and help elect other progressives who support Obama's agenda to play any part in an Obama administration.
Better to have some corporate whore who engages in fraudulent "fact checking".

Gupta was named one of the Sexiest Men of 2003 by People magazine.

yeah, and Sarah Palin was featured in Vogue. Based on your priorities, I'm guessing you voted for her. I'm sure people who really believe in progressive causes, like Moore and Kos, wouldn't be part of her administration either.

Posted by: whatever on January 6, 2009 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

Gupta's a whore. He fabricated a claim that Michael Moore "fudged" his facts in SICKO when Moore actually did no such thing.

Gupta's been carrying water for big pharma and the insurance industry for so long if he has ANYTHING to do with America's health care they'll be giving away fur coats in hell before Americans see their tax dollars excising the private insurance industry from their health care system, much less purchasing the single payor system we so DESPERATELY need.

Posted by: getaclue on January 6, 2009 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

yeah, and Sarah Palin was featured in Vogue. Based on your priorities, I'm guessing you voted for her.

Oh please. I quoted what I thought was a humorous factoid about an admin-nominee and suddenly I'm a Palin groupie?

I swear to god, there's nothing like the left (of which I am a life-long member) for meaningless intramural squabbling. Does anybody remember how a majority party acts?

Posted by: Arachnae on January 6, 2009 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

This is a good choice. Someone who is politically independent,a practicing physician,and more importantly,recognizable. He is acutely aware of the need for healthcare coverage for all. I would say another fine pick by Obama in his effort to reverse the last disgraceful eight years.

Posted by: dave walker on January 7, 2009 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

There are some excellent comments on this post--a lot of well-reasoned arguments why Gupta is a poor choice (Hopefully, at least a few senators raise these points during Gupta's confirmation hearings.). Others apparently feel compelled to be apologists for whomever Obama appoints to any position.

Posted by: DevilDog on January 7, 2009 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

Gupta was sought out and paid to demean Moore's "Sicko" movie and really couldn't find anything so he just made something up for CNN to use. Big Pharm and Private ins were trying anything to hit Moore's Documentary and Gupta went for it. CNN invited Moore on under the pretense to "talk" about his film but actually it was to try to belittle his film and Gupta showed his spots by trying to do what the corporations wanted done. How can someone like this be trusted to Be Surgeon General. Next he'll say smoking's really not that bad for you or that vaccinations really don't cause children's illnesses...the manufacturer told him so.

Dawn Johnsen appointed OLC chair and our new CIA director...WOW...now those are superior choices. Gupta is disappointing.

Posted by: joey on January 7, 2009 at 4:07 AM | PERMALINK

First Tom Daschle at DHHS, and now Dr. Sanjay Gupta as surgeon general? Ugh. What a couple of milquetoasts.

Why isn't anyone considering Dr. Howard Dean? Oh, that's right, Rahm Emanuel doesn't like him, because Dean's formerly maligned 50-state strategy still showed Emanuel up big time in the 2006 elections. Only room for one diva here ...

Posted by: Out & About in The Castro. on January 7, 2009 at 7:30 AM | PERMALINK

Please God, no.

Posted by: tAwO 4 That 1 on January 7, 2009 at 8:01 AM | PERMALINK

There are some excellent comments on this post--a lot of well-reasoned arguments why Gupta is a poor choice (Hopefully, at least a few senators raise these points during Gupta's confirmation hearings.). Others apparently feel compelled to be apologists for whomever Obama appoints to any position.

And, in a less binary world than yours, there's a third group: Others who have criticized other appointments Obama has made can see the rationale behind this one even if we're decidedly not Gupta fans. There are probably fourth, fifth and sixth choices, too, but I don't want to overcome you with the non-black-and-white analysis you apparently find taxing.

Posted by: shortstop on January 7, 2009 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

The OSG is tasked with enhancing the public health of the country and also administers the 6000 strong US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. As such he is a commissioned officer with a flag rank equivalent to Vice Admiral. (His boss is an assistant Sec of Health with an ADM rank equivalent so he is not even the boss.)

The present holder of the office, RADM Steven K. Galson, (http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/about/biographies/biosg.html) has the kind of CV you would like to see in this office. He is a graduate of two Ivy League programs, has an MPH in addition to his MD and a ton of administrative experience.

Two reasons Dr. Gupta should turn the job down:

1) The job is not that big a deal, but the SG does have a bully pulpit that can benefit the country in the sense that he or she can promote good public health practices. Dr. Gupta already has the face time to do this, but no other qualifications for SG. Besides, how many of you can name three SGs?

2) He would be taking a tremendous pay cut.

Why not keep the person who is already there?

Posted by: mikeyes on January 7, 2009 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

milkeyes - Thanks for all the blurry reasons for keeping Galson. But if Gupta would be taking a pay cut, then the invisible placeholder is overpaid.

Posted by: Visine on January 7, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Come see Howard Dean at DemocracyFest! http://www.DemocracyFest.net

Posted by: Deaniac on January 7, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK


RADM Galson is the Acting Surgeon General so he is subject to be dismissed at any time and is a placeholder. President Bush has made the job poison with his non-scientific attitude and general incompetence. My point is that he does have the credentials to be SG. Dr. Gupta does not.

Also, the SG makes (at most) about $200K a year according to the military pay tables. This might be a little higher due to bonuses, but it will not meet the $500K/yr (more like a million in Dr. Gupta's case)that the average neurosurgeon gets, but it will probably be a lot less work for him.

Posted by: mikeyes on January 7, 2009 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Good post from BioBrain @ 6:28, but instead of being reassuring it goes to the heart of my concerns. The purpose of appointing competent, independent Cabinet members is to introduce fresh, creative ideas into government, to counteract the entropy that is the SOP for business in the Capitol. Appointing a bunch of figureheads whose sole purpose is to receive marching orders from the President or, just as likely, his Chief of Staff, dilutes the pool of available intelligence down to one or two. No matter how good they are, Obama and Emmanuel would benefit from knowledgeable opinions delivered by top experts in their own particular fields. We've seen how well the figurehead approach worked in the last Bush government; it's past time for a different approach.

Don't know whether the Surgeon General post would be a good fit for Dean or not. We know he wanted HHS and got stiffed on that in favor of a DLCer who was such an outstanding Senate leader he went from Majority to Minority Leader, the first time in decades the Dems lost the Senate, then was defeated for reelection. Nice enough guy, but not exactly dynamic. Dean would bring to Surgeon General the same qualities he would have brought to HHS, a willingness to reform health care and cure the abuses of Big Medicine and Pharma, not dole out personal wellness tips the way Goopy will. After all, the idea that our problems are all our own fault is a pretty Republican one.

I wouldn't mind seeing Dean as Attorney General; although not a lawyer, he brings approximately the same experience to the post as Leon Panetta does to the CIA, plus a reformist attitude that we'll never see in Holder. Ironically, the best candidates for AG are Dean, a nonlawyer, John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer. Go figure. Then cry.

The overall point is that real Progressives, who provided the energy and talking points to finally tip the election for the Dems, have been totally pushed out of the Obama government. The DLC acts like it did it all by itself. The first result is a lackluster Cabinet that greatly resemble Clinton's first. There have always been two battles, the battle for the government and the battle within the party. The progressives won the first but lost the second. See my post on the Specter story @ 10:04 AM.

Posted by: ericfree on January 7, 2009 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Why isn't anyone considering Dr. Howard Dean?

Politico reported that Dean never interested in the job.


Posted by: AP on January 7, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

He doesn't want to legalize pot because he thinks its "not great" for one's health. So we would continue to support a destructive billion dollar industry and our massive prison infrastructure.

This is no great choice.

Posted by: exclab on January 7, 2009 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK



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