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http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/washington/politics-bush-surgeongeneral.html

New York Times
July 10, 2007
 Former Surgeon General Says He Was Muzzled  By REUTERS

*Filed at 4:25 p.m. ET*

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The first U.S. surgeon general appointed by President
George W. Bush<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/george_w_bush/index.html?inline=nyt-per>accused
the administration on Tuesday of political interference and muzzling
him on key issues like embryonic stem cell research.

"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological,
theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried,"
Dr. Richard Carmona, who served as the nation's top doctor from 2002 until
2006, told a House of Representatives committee.

"The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy,
there is nothing worse than ignoring science, or marginalizing the voice of
science for reasons driven by changing political winds. The job of surgeon
general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political
party," Carmona added.

Carmona said Bush administration political appointees censored his speeches
and kept him from talking out publicly about certain issues, including the
science on embryonic stem cell research, contraceptives and his misgivings
about the administration's embrace of "abstinence-only" sex education.

Carmona's comments came two days before a Senate committee is due to hold a
hearing on Bush's nomination of Dr. James Holsinger as his successor. The
administration allowed Carmona to finish his term as surgeon general last
year without a replacement in place.

Gay rights activists and several leading Democrats have criticized Holsinger
for what they see as "anti-gay" writings, but the White House has defended
him as well qualified.

U.S. surgeons general in the past have issued influential reports on
subjects including smoking,
AIDS<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/diseasesconditionsandhealthtopics/aids/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier>and
mental health.

"Political interference with the work of the surgeon general appears to have
reached a new level in this administration," said Rep. Henry Waxman, a
California Democrat who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform
Committee to which Carmona testified.

"The public expects that a surgeon general will be immune from political
pressure and be allowed to express his or her professional views based on
the best available science," he said.

Carmona said he was politically naive when he took the job, but became
astounded at the partisanship and manipulation he witnessed as
administration political appointees hemmed him in.

Bush in 2001 allowed federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research,
but only with heavy restrictions that many scientists condemn as stifling.

Carmona said the administration prevented him from voicing views on stem
cell research. Many scientists see it as a promising avenue for curing many
diseases. But because it involves destroying human embryos, opponents call
it immoral.

Carmona said he was prevented from talking publicly even about the science
underpinning the research to enable the U.S. public to have a better
understanding of a complicated issue. He said most of the public debate over
the matter has been driven by political, ideological or theological
motivations.

"I was blocked at every turn. I was told the decision had already been made
-- stand down, don't talk about it," he said.

Carmona testified with two predecessors, Dr. C. Everett Koop, who served
under President Ronald
Reagan<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/ronald_wilson_reagan/index.html?inline=nyt-per>,
and Dr. David Satcher, named by Clinton but whose term ended under Bush.

Carmona said some of his predecessors told him, "We have never seen it as
partisan, as malicious, as vindictive, as mean-spirited as it is today, and
you clearly have worse than anyone's had."