Saturday, March 15, 2014

Senate Democrats shamefully abandon President Obama over outstanding surgeon general nominee

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's one thing for right-wing ideologues and NRA stooges like Rand Paul to oppose President Obama's nominee for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy. Dr. Murthy, after all, has said that gun violence represents a serious public health threat, which of course it does, and reality-denying pro-gun absolutists live in a fetishistic fantasy world where guns save lives.

It's another thing, though, for Democrats, even Republican-leaning conservative Democrats, to oppose a Democratic president's nominee and for their opposition be enough, with Republican opposition, to derail that nominee's confirmation to a post for what he is supremely qualified: 

Facing a possible defeat in the Senate, the White House is considering delaying a vote on President Obama's choice for surgeon general or withdrawing the nomination altogether, an acknowledgment of its fraying relationship with Senate Democrats.

The nominee, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, an internist and political ally of the president's, has come under criticism from the National Rifle Association, and opposition from the gun-rights group has grown so intense that it has placed Democrats from conservative states, several of whom are up for re-election this year, in a difficult spot.

Senate aides said Friday that as many as 10 Democrats are believed to be considering a vote against Dr. Murthy, who has voiced support for various gun control measures like an assault weapons ban, mandatory safety training and ammunition sales limits.

I get that some of these Democrats are generally pro-gun and that some of them are facing tough re-election challenges this year. But it takes extreme ignorance and/or willful stupidity not to see America's plague of gun violence as a public health threat, and, what's more, it's not like Murthy's confirmation would suddenly mean the end of gun "rights."

But beyond that, these are Democrats undermining a fellow Democrat who could certainly use the support right now. I get that politicians are about self-preservation and that supporting the president isn't exactly a major vote-winner at the moment (though of course Congress's approval rating is way lower than Obama's). But these Democrats should a) do what's right for the country, b) support the president's, any president's, nominees unless something truly egregious is uncovered, and c) back up their president even if doing so might subject them to some (but probably not much) criticism back home.

But these Democrats aren't just looking at re-election, they're basically just siding with the NRA and the rest of the gun nuts against sensible gun policy, as well as sensible public health policy. They're NRA stooges just like Rand Paul is, and in opposing President Obama's extremely qualified nominee they're displaying not so much sensible political sensitivity but abject moral cowardice. And for that, they should be ashamed of themselves, just as all Democrats should be ashamed that their party can't even remain united in support of their president for what is, for all intents and purposes, an easy call.

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