This past week, in addition to once again trying to repeal health care reform, the Republicans who have recently come to power took aim against a new, even more pervasive foe: health itself.
It started when President Obama, speaking to Savannah Guthrie on “The Today Show,” threw down the gauntlet when asked about vaccination in light of the recent measles outbreak in the U.S.
“The science is pretty indisputable,” the president said. “We’ve looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren’t reasons to not. …You should get your kids vaccinated.”
Well, the right wing wasn’t going to take that lying down, you betcha. Following the one ironclad principle of the right (“If’n one o’ them Obammy’s is fer it, we’s agin it”), Republican presidential hopefuls took to the airwaves to let us know that liberty includes the freedom to let your kids become tiny little germ weapons.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who, as you remember, tried to lock up a nurse for being in the same country as ebola, suddenly decided that inoculation against measles, a far more contagious disease, should be “optional.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul made his bid for the coveted Michele Bachmann Professorship of Unsourced Pseudoscientific Claptrap by telling talk show host Laura Ingraham, “I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.”
Heard from who? Jenny McCarthy? Well, hey, who are a bunch of dumb old scientists to argue with a Playboy Playmate and the former host of MTV’s “Singled Out”?
Not to be outdone, our own Junior Sen. Tom Tillis decried the undue regulatory burden of requiring restaurant employees to wash their hands after using the toilet.
“I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy,” Tillis said, “ as long as they post a sign that says, ‘We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restrooms.’ The market will take care of that.”
Of course, in the unregulated dream world where Sen. Tillis would have us all live, there’d be no one to ensure that the sign is visible, legible, or even in English. But, as the song goes, “Freedom’s just another word for wondering why the waiter’s hands smell funny.”
Later, as usual, both Christie and Paul had to, as they say, “walk back” their statements. The “walkback” is what wingnuts and the people who try to pander to them often find themselves doing when they realize that the codswallop they’ve been spoon-feeding to the rubes, goobers and haters on right-wing talk radio, and Faux News has actually been overheard by the non-insane, and they have to do some damage control before the editorial cartoonists start drawing them with tinfoil hats.
Christie’s office released a statement: “The governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection, and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated.” Rand Paul went even further and had himself photographed getting a booster vaccine for hepatitis A. Guess he figured that for him, the “profound mental disorders” train had already left the station, with him on it.
As for Senator Tillis, as of this writing, he’s still holding the line against the tyranny of mandatory hand-washing. This caused a Republican friend of mine to comment, “I would not shake hands with that man.”
Here’s the thing: Vaccines don’t cause “profound mental disorders.” The one study that showed a link between measles vaccine and autism was conclusively debunked a few years ago when it was revealed that not only did Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor conducting it, misrepresent and change the results of his research, he did so after taking thousands of pounds from lawyers hoping to capitalize on his dodgy “research” in lawsuits.
Wakefield was later stripped of his medical license, and the journal in which the study was published retracted the article.
Yet to this day, you will find people telling you with complete and misplaced confidence that children suffering from autism are “vaccine-injured.” To keep spreading this lie when measles is trying make a comeback is dangerous. For politicians to spread it for political gain is inexcusable.
As for the value of washing your hands after using the restroom: Ask your mom. If you’d rather believe Thom Tillis than your own mama, I don’t know what to tell you.