Michele Bachmann for Secretary of Health and Human Services?

Gayl Hamilton, MD

Catherine J Frompovich

Gayl Hamilton, MD

December 2, 2011

Can’t you just picture it now?  Voters clamoring for Michele Bachmann to be named the next Secretary of Health and Human Services, regardless of whoever wins the White House?  Ummm…no….actually, I really don’t want to picture Michele Bachmann named as anything that involves the government in this country.

Why are you laughing? Well, maybe you ought to reconsider that many would want Congresswoman Bachmann as the next HHS Secretary.  Can you envision this— please try?  Just visualize and hear it in your mind, a chant that becomes a mantra that escalates into crescendo at all political party conventions next year, “Michele, Michele, HHS Secretary so it won’t go to hell.”   I’m cringing, not laughing…

Call me judgmental, but I have scrolled right through any news about Michele Bachmann since her emergence to notoriety in 2008 until a recent remark she made during a debate. I will begrudgingly admit that since hearing that snippet about her outrage regarding the Gardasil vaccine, I was left scratching my head about her. It’s usually not like me to jump to conclusions, like a common Tea Partier.

If that hasn’t tickled your right brain hemisphere even in jest, then perhaps we ought to cut Bachmann some slack since she’s the only public person who, pardon the expression, has the “balls” to address vaccine issues.  Hurray for ‘ballsy’ Michele!  No doubt you have heard about her now-famous remark to Texas Governor Rick Perry regarding the HPV vaccine mandate he was involved with in Texas?  Really! Who but Ms. Bachmann would have the chutzpah to introduce such a topic that no one wants to talk about, much less politicians and the press?  Gotta give the lady credit where credit is due!

I give her credit for being born without an “edit button,” which is usually fine with me. Personally, I hate the danged thing. But, I think also defunct may be that crucial little switch that can disconnect the flow of electricity from brain to mouth that prevents embarrassing, inappropriate remarks.

There are few things I admire more than a female who has the chutzpah to stand up for what she believes in, regardless of personal consequence. Someone who can, “go up against the big guns,” (as so eloquently put by another one of my not-so-favorite female political figures), and speak from the heart, rather than the carefully-edited lines of a teleprompter speech.  But I will not credit as off-handed her remarks addressing the vaccine issue. Should our “protector of health nominee” make random statements on causation of “mental retardation,” e.g., Gardasil causes mental retardation?

Perchance Ms. Bachmann knows more about the politics of healthcare issues, and vaccines in particular, than many—if not all—politicos on Capitol Hill and in federal health agencies.  Ever hear some of the ‘oh so pitiful’ remarks made by some of those high-priced government-sanctioned, official ‘talking heads’. Please pardon me if I barf thinking about it. And yet there they were, right upfront, first and foremost to criticize poor Michele.

Oh yes, poor Michele and those nasty boys picking on her…Bah! Few things bug me more than a political soap opera created for the sole purpose of defining one’s role as heroine and distracting attention from the real issue at hand (and one’s lack of knowledge about said issue). I feel like we are watching a perverse version of “Alice in Wonderland” that may be better entitled “How to Oust the Mad Hatter at the Tea Party.” It really makes me want to find the remote and change the channel.

Why would anyone think that a supposed ‘off-the-wall’ remark by a conservative Republican presidential candidate was so far-fetched?  The media and press were first to jump on Michele’s remark, not from investigating the public safety issue, but from the possibility that Bachmann was delivering a disparaging remark to undo Governor Perry’s political aspirations.  Yawn, yawn.  How could she, when Perry was the one who apparently screwed up, and not in favor of young girls in Texas?  Fortunately, the state legislature voted to override Governor Perry’s order requiring mandatory HPV vaccinations for young girls in Texas.

Now just think, how would you like someone who really doesn’t know the facts and issues regarding such a personal health matter as HPV and HPV vaccine damage  to have total control and sole accessibility to the president’s emergency satchel, secret black box, and ‘button’ that could determine the future of humankind?

Do you honestly think Bachmann’s spewing on HPV was based on “the facts?” Do you really think it welled up from her deep concern over protecting otherwise healthy young girls from serious, life-threatening, life-altering, adverse events? Here I go jumping to judgment again, but I have to take the side of the media on this one.

I believe her only deep concern is protecting herself from the adverse effects that Governor Rick Perry may have on her political campaign. There was an episode like this on Family Guy – a politician just uses one inflammatory phrase, and the media, the public are all making such a fuss that you don’t even need to say anything more. The conversation is started and viewers or the public probably won’t even be asked to participate – no one will ever know or care if you even know anything about it.

What do you think?  Maybe that ought to be a prerequisite question for all candidates for the office of president, in addition to other criteria a candidate must meet.  The burning-issue question is: Would you allow your daughter to be damaged by the HPV vaccine?  Maybe we should include sons, since boys 11 years old now are encouraged to receive the HPV vaccine.

If the answer is yes, then maybe that person isn’t the correct candidate to consider for president.  If the answer is no, then that person should be asked another question: Why?  Depending upon the factualness of the answer given, which is not what Big Pharma claims—see VAERS reporting system for adverse reactions to HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix—then voters would have a candidate who would be looking out for the real health interests of voters and their families, and not the pharmaceutical industry’s push to profits.

What would be Michele Bachmann’s answer as to why the HPV vaccine is dangerous? I shudder at the very thought that she may not know. It is all great and fine and wonderful that Bachmann has taken a stand on an issue that merits national scrutiny, and undoubtedly on the CORRECT side, especially in the minds of parents whose children have been damaged by the HPV vaccine campaign. Take a look at the “Gardasil girls” on www.TruthAboutGardasil.org. But how does that old adage go? ”Even a blind squirrel gets a nut now and again.” Yeah, I think that’s it. Healthcare consumers in the USA shouldn’t have to depend on a blind-squirrel-type ‘batting average’ from any future HHS Secretary.

Leaving the presidential candidates to duke it out on their own, let’s get back to what criteria make for a health-consumer-centric Secretary of Health and Human Services, instead of knowing the right people from whom you are owed a political favor?

“The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the United States government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are the least able to help themselves.”  Protect is defined as “to keep safe from harm or injury.”

The notion that our government and its officials are acting to “protect…those who are least able to help themselves” is a grand one. It’s the way the country should be run.

We, the people, have the privilege of electing officials to such critical positions and the comfort of knowing those elected officials will appoint those with the most appropriate background to lead them, and with faith that they will act in our best interests. Right?

As I look through the prior secretaries of the HHS, I am amazed that there are very few who hold any type of healthcare degree, or have any significant education/experience in healthcare. I suppose that is another one of my naïve assumptions that I have made over the years. I have no idea WHY on earth I would expect that the official in charge of “protecting the health of all Americans” should have some background in either education or health.

Who should be appointed as Secretary of Health and Human Services? I think the answer is rather simple:

a) Someone who wants to use their position of power to make things better for others;

b) Someone with a clue about health, education, and public service;

c) Someone who knows what they don’t know, is not afraid to admit it, and is willing to learn; and

d) Someone who is not afraid of controversy, but doesn’t seek to create it to improve his or her own position.

The question of who should NOT be appointed, I will leave to your imagination.