Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Paul Krugman raises the issue of accountability regarding Sanjay Gupta's appointment as surgeon general -- PLUS we have a Blair House update!


At least he's sexy enough to be surgeon general.

"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."
-- Paul Krugman, on his blog yesterday (link below)

by Ken

I think we can say it's official now, that the Obama campaign so famous for being leakproof has metamorphosed into a transition that leaks like a sieve. It doesn't seem to be the transition itself that's initiating the leaks, but there's enough information out there to put the leakers now our primary source of information about the transition, and in control in a curious way, as with the recent case of the leak of the intended appointment of Leon Panetta to head the CIA, done in such a way as to make possible or even encourage Sen. Dianne Feinstein's public show of disapproval.

Now we have the leak of the apparently planned appointment of CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta to be surgeon general, with an assurance (we're told) of input into health-care policy-making. I would have thought there wouldn't be much controversy, since as a practicing neurosurgeon he's clearly medically qualified, and you would think his media presence and savvy would be a plus in terms of the surgeon general's role of bully puppeteer. It seems, though, that some people aren't so comfortable with the celebrity component of the appointment -- either that he's somehow too famous, or maybe that his celebrity seems to be more of a credential than his competence.

None of this seems to trouble the Washington Post's Howie Kurtz, who's in something like gush mode over the good doctor. But then, in the insular world of the Village at the heart of Washington, D.C., which is pretty much the whole world to our Howie, or at least all the world that matters, Dr. Gupta is A-OK. Why, isn't he one of People magazine's "sexiest men alive"?

In the tradition of balanced journalism, Howie does manage to find a dissenting voice, in this case a representative of the 6,000-member Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, which is overseen by the surgeon general.
"I am unaware of any public health experience or qualifications he has to be the leader of the nation's public health service," said Gerard M. Farrell, executive director of the service's Commissioned Officers Association. "This would be akin to appointing the Army chief of staff from the city council of Hoboken," N.J.

But you know those workers -- never satisfied, always griping. Be honest now. Does anyone know what the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service does? Does anyone care?

Paul Krugman raised a different objection in this blog post:
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.

Ah, accountability, or rather the lack of it -- a subject that seems to have become inescapable with the fading of the Bush regime and its wall-to-wall disasters. It's not a happy indication, this seeming confirmation that social acceptability will continue to be more important than getting your facts right. And maybe it matters that someone who couldn't get his facts right about Sicko is expecting a say in formulating health-care policy.


Last night we had Margaret Carlson's update on the Blair House booking crisis, in which she revealed that in fact there were no conflicting events when the Bushes turned down the Obamas' request to move in on the 5th rather than the 15th of January. You'll recall that our "In the Loop" pal Al Kamen has been on the case as well, and he's turned up more activity than the previously disclosed overnight stay of former Australian PM John Howard:

119 Rooms, 70,000 Square Feet and One Lucky Australian

By Al Kamen
Washington Post, Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The veil is lifted. We now know who is booked at Blair House, kicking President-elect Barack Obama and his family to the waiting list and across Lafayette Square to the Hay-Adams Hotel.

The only overnight visitor at the presidential guest manse is none other than John Howard, a former Australian prime minister and leading member of President Bush's coalition of the willing in Iraq.

Howard and his entourage will be bunking at Blair House on Jan. 12, the night before he, former British prime minister Tony Blair and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe are to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bush, said Sally McDonough, a spokeswoman for first lady Laura Bush. The three current and former heads of state are longtime political allies of the president's, and Blair and Howard were key partners in the Iraq war.

Blair and Uribe also were invited to stay at Blair House but declined Bush's invitation, said a second White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Blair, who traditionally stays at the British Embassy, and Uribe apparently found other accommodations, the source said.

There are other scheduled events at Blair House, but no other overnight visits between now and Jan. 15, when the Obama family is scheduled to move in, McDonough said.

Today, Laura Bush will hold a private reception honoring members of the administration's Global Cultural Initiative, 80 of whom are in the diplomatic corps, McDonough said. The reception will be hosted by Protocol Chief Nancy Brinker.

"This has been a long-planned celebratory event at the Blair House," McDonough said.

She added that there are several other planned parties at Blair House.

The incoming first family requested an early move-in at the 70,000-square-foot, 119-room mansion across the street from the White House so the children could settle in to start school this week at Sidwell Friends School. But the Obamas was told the residence had been booked, so they took a suite at the Hay-Adams.

At the time, the White House would not say which events were bumping the Obamas.

Maybe Howard might offfer his digs on Craigslist in exchange for the presidential-elect suite at the Hay?

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