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Rick Perry’s bad, Obama-style medicine

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By Michelle Malkin  •  August 16, 2011 11:13 PM

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Governor Gardasil, R-Merck.

Beltway types are obsessing over GOP Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign trail comments about the Fed and Ben Bernanke.

Blah x 3.

I’m far less aggravated by Gov. Perry’s injudicious toss-off remarks than I am by his profoundly troubling, liberty-curtailing actions in office and his fresh batch of specious rationalizations for them. My syndicated column today dissects Perry’s recent, so-called “walk backs” of his odious Gardasil vaccine mandate for children. I’ve written and reported on vaccine bullies in the schools and on informed parental authority over vaccines previously. But as you’ll see from my column below, Perry defenders who dismiss critics as “single-issue” activists are willfully blind to the Gardasil disgrace’s multiple layers of rottenness. Related must-reads on Perry and Gardasil: Tom Bevan, Rhymes with Right, and BA Cyclone at RedState. (See also this flashback on Hillary, Merck money, and Gardasil.)

While Perry and his campaign staff have now paid lip service to making a “mistake” in shoving the executive order down families’ throats, they remain defiant in defending the decree and Perry’s zealous, big government overreaching. From the latest story on Perry’s “reversal” in the Washington Post: “Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner dismissed the criticism. Governor Perry has always stood on the side of protecting life, and that is what this issue was about…”

Oh, no it wasn’t. Please read this, get informed, pass it on, and make sure that you don’t fall for a purported cure to our political ills that’s worse than the power-grabbing disease in the current White House.

As for the ridiculous idea that scrutinizing Perry’s much-bragged-out gubernatorial record is tantamount to “smearing” him, toughen up, buttercups. This is just the beginning of 2012 campaign heat. Limited government activists already know Perry’s ready, willing, and able to dish it out against them. If Perry can’t take it from supposed allies and friends on his own side of the aisle, why should he be trusted as the GOP contender against our Democratic enemies?

Update: Document dump from Politico’s Ben Smith and Byron Tau on the internal e-mails in Perry’s office regarding the HPV decision. Their takeaway from the 700-page dump seems to be that Perry was largely absent from the internal discussions and that the e-mails do not leave a record of Merck meddling. I’ll go through the records and add anything significant here. But 1) Much of the schmoozing and lobbying on such matters takes place outside of the e-mail sphere and 2) Perry wouldn’t need to be involved in the implementation details once he made up his mind to move forward and attempt to ram the mandate down people’s throats.

Point 3) Smith writes: “Perry seems to have been vindicated on the question of whether he rushed into a policy other states would never embrace: The National Council of State Legislatures reports that 20 states now have some legislation regarding the vaccine.” I’m not sure who argued that “states would never embrace” the policy. The whole reason to be concerned about Perry taking the lead in the first place is because in so many key areas (e.g., adopting school textbooks, etc), as Texas goes, so goes the rest of the country.

***

Rick Perry’s bad, Obama-style medicine
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2011

Texas, we have a problem. Your GOP governor is running for president against Barack Obama. Yet, one of his most infamous acts as executive of the nation’s second-largest state smacks of every worst habit of the Obama administration. And his newly crafted rationalizations for the atrocious decision are positively Clintonesque.

In February 2007, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a shocking executive order forcing every sixth-grade girl to submit to a three-jab regimen of the Gardasil vaccine. He also forced state health officials to make the vaccine available “free” to girls ages 9 to 18. The drug, promoted by manufacturer Merck as an effective shield against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) and genital warts, as well as cervical cancer, had only been approved by the Food and Drug Administration eight months prior to Perry’s edict.

Gardasil’s wear-off time and long-term side effects have yet to be determined. “Serious questions” remain about its “overall effectiveness,” according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Even the chair of the federal panel that recommended Gardasil for children opposes mandating it as a condition of school enrollment. Young girls and boys are simply not at an increased risk of contracting HPV in the classroom the way they are at risk of contracting measles or other school-age communicable diseases.

Perry defenders pointed to a bogus “opt-out” provision in his mandate “to protect the right of parents to be the final authority on their children’s health care.” But requiring parents to seek the government’s permission to keep an untested drug out of their kids’ veins is a plain usurpation of their authority. Translation: Ask your bureaucratic overlord to determine if a Gardasil waiver is right for you.

Libertarians and social conservatives alike slammed Perry’s reckless disregard for parental rights and individual liberty. The Republican-dominated legislature also balked. In May 2007, both chambers passed bills overturning the governor’s unilaterally imposed health order.

Fast-forward five years. After announcing his 2012 presidential bid this weekend, Perry now admits he “didn’t do my research well enough” on the Gardasil vaccine before stuffing his bad medicine down Texans’ throats. On Monday, he added: “That particular issue is one that I readily stand up and say I made a mistake on. I listened to the legislature … and I agreed with their decision.”

Perry downplayed his underhanded maneuver as an aberrational “error,” and then — gobsmackingly — he spun the debacle as a display of his great character: “One of the things I do pride myself on, I listen. When the electorate says, ‘Hey, that’s not what we want to do,’ we backed up, took a look at what we did.”

Are these non-apology apologies enough to quell the concerns of voters looking for a presidential candidate who will provide a clear, unmistakable contrast to Barack Obama? Not by a long shot.

How Obama-like was this scandal? Let us count the ways:

Trampling the deliberative process. Since Day One, President Obama has short-circuited transparency, public debate and congressional oversight. How can Perry effectively challenge the White House’s czar fetish, stealth recess appointments, selective waiver-mania and backdoor legislating through administrative orders when Perry himself employed the very same process as governor?

Not only did Perry defend going above the heads of elected state legislators, but his office also falsely claimed the legislature had no right to repeal the executive order. “The order is effective until Perry or a successor changes it, and the Legislature has no authority to repeal it,” Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody told The Washington Post in February 2007.

When both the House and Senate repealed the law six weeks later, Perry did not — as he now claims — listen humbly or “agree with their decision.”

Human shield demagoguery. In response to the legislature’s rebuke, the infuriated governor attacked those who supported repeal as “shameful” spreaders of “misinformation” who were putting “women’s lives” at risk. Borrowing a tried-and-true Alinskyite page from the progressive left, Perry surrounded himself with female cervical cancer victims and deflected criticism of his imperial tactics with emotional anecdotes.

He then lionized himself and the minority of politicians who voted against repeal of his Gardasil order. “They will never have to think twice about whether they did the right thing. No lost lives will occupy the confines of their conscience, sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.” Perry, of course, has now put his own ghastly Gardasil order on that same altar — but with no apology to all those he demonized and exploited along the way.

Cronyism. Most noxious of all, Perry wraps his big government health mandate in the “pro-life” mantle. But the do-gooder theater is a distraction from the business-as-usual back-scratching and astro-turfing that are Obama hallmarks. Perry’s former chief of staff Mike Toomey is a top Merck lobbyist. Toomey’s mother-in-law CORRECTION his current chief-of-staff’s mother-in-law headed a Merck-funded front group pushing vaccination mandates. Merck’s political action committee pitched in $6,000 to Perry’s re-election campaign in 2007 and Merck discussed the vaccine with Perry staff on the day they donated.

The PerryCare executive fiat was not simply a one-off mistake explained away by lack of “research.” It exposed a fundamental lapse in both political and policy judgments, an appalling lack of ethics and a disturbing willingness to smear principled defenders of limited government who object to the Nanny State using their children as guinea pigs.

Trusting Rick Perry’s tea party credentials is a perilous shot in the dark.

***

I’m going to keep a running list of all the lame defense of Perry. They’re already starting to come in on Twitter:

1) “Spend more time attacking Obama instead of tearing down conservative electable candidates.”

Er, I wrote the book on Obama’s Culture of Corruption. And I just dissected how UN-conservative Perry’s instincts, judgment, and response to the Gardasil debacle have been. Hello?

2) “It never happened and he owned [up to it] that [he] never should have done it.”

Only he didn’t fully own up to it, his staff continues to defend the mandate as a principled pro-life cause, and it DID happen — only to be overturned, thank God, by both chambers of the state legislature.

3) “Don’t be such a purist.”

Really? We’re back to the McCain 2008 defense? The Tea Party movement was born out of disgust with the pollutionists in the GOP who ushered in the era of endless bailouts and failed to cut government. It’s the sheeple mentality to fall in line behind any hack with an “R” by his name and remain silent about his Nanny State proclivities.

4) “What do you want? Perfection?”

It’s not about looking for “perfection.” It’s about comparing rhetoric vs. record.

And it’s not just about one “mistake” or one issue, my friends. It’s about instincts, judgment, core values, and trust.

***

More background on Merck meddling and Perry’s executive order habit:

Merck is backing an organization of female legislators from around the country to promote the vaccinations. In Texas, the four directors listed on that group’s website are Reps. Alma Allen and Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston; Dianne White Delisi, R-Temple; and Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio….

Merck’s Texas lobsters are Mike Toomey, Lara Laneri Keel, and Holly duBois Jacques. Toomey’s getting the most attention, because he’s Perry’s former chief of staff, but if you go by the money, Jacques leads the team. Merck pays her $100,000-$149,999, according to the Texas Ethics Commission; Toomey and Keel (who are colleagues) reported income of $25,000-$49,999 from Merck. GlaxoSmithKline, which isn’t in the game yet, has 10 lobbyists registered in Texas.

After a few days of this, lawyerly folks began asking questions about just what authority Perry has here. Former state District Judge F. Scott McCown wrote that Perry is stretching his leash, and Nelson, joined by Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, has asked Attorney General Greg Abbott for his official opinion on the subject. Perry’s HPV diktat is his 65th as governor.

***

Flashback Erick Erickson at RedState 2007:

I think a responsible parent might want to get the vaccine for their daughter. But I don’t think it is sound public policy to be forcing the profit stream of a pharmaceutical company onto an unwilling public when the company has a monopoly on the drug and seems clearly to be behind the efforts to get these laws passed.

Lastly, the drug just came out. Do we really want to forcibly treat school girls as guinea pigs for Merck when the majority of them probably will never even need the vaccine or get the disease the vaccine hopes to prevent? And Merck does not even know if booster shots will be needed later in life. The drug is that new. In fact, it hasn’t even been fully tested on children and doesn’t wipe out all strains of HPV, and the risk of pelvic disease has doubled in those who have had the vaccine. Oh, and boys aren’t getting the vaccine despite the fact that they also can contract the virus.

This gives me the creeps. With the 100th anniversary of eugenics being remembered in the country, it just gives me the creeps that we might be forcing teenagers to serve as guinea pigs for a new drug held monopolistically by Merck that probably is not needed for most of them — but we’re doing it for the children.

Sure, it sounds good. It sounds like an excellent idea. But the lobbying by Merck behind the proposal and the fact that the drug is so new and prevents a virus that is not nearly as communicably infectious as standard mandatory vaccines gives me pause. No doubt we might all decide that this is sound public policy. But why rush into with the lobbyists pushing for it when we can, right now, educate parents and let them decide.

***

Dan Riehl: “Slick, grip and grin” isn’t enough to quell concerns.

Jennifer Rubin
on the Perry/Gardasil document dump’s insignificance:

“…the notion that this was a blip on Perry’s radar screen is belied by his defense of the policy over a period of years.

It seems that Perry at least owes the voters a fuller explanation for his abrupt change of heart. When did he realize his decision was a mistake? And to be specific, was the decision itself faulty, or was the error in using an executive order to accomplish his aim? Or was it in not eliminating a potential conflict of interest (for example, by returning a campaign donation from the Merck lobbyist who pushed for the vaccination program)? There could be very good answers to these queries; we just don’t know what they are yet.”

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