Hopefully the crude effort by the Democrat-media complex to use the current measles outbreak as a political club against Republicans is winding down, since there are important stories out there awaiting coverage. The refusal of President Obama’s spokesman to answer a question about vaccination policy, even as measles anxiety reaches the fabled right-wing bastion of Chicago, should just about wrap things up.
To bring everyone up to speed on the vaccination scorecard for 2016 GOP presidential prospects, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal issued a statement on Tuesday in which he strongly urged parents to get their children vaccinated, reminding his constituents that Louisiana public schools require them for attendance, as do most private schools, with the state providing necessary assistance for low-income families.
“I worked in health care for a long time. I have no reservations about whether or not it is a good idea and desirable for all children to be vaccinated,” Jindal added on a personal note. “There is a lot of fear mongering out there on this. I think it is irresponsible for leaders to undermine the public’s confidence in vaccinations that have been tested and proven to protect public health. Science supports them and they keep our children safe from potentially deadly but preventable diseases. Personally, I would not send my kids to a school that did not require vaccinations. Vaccinations are important. I urge every parent to get them. Every one.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio also addressed the issue on Tuesday: “There is absolutely no medical science or data what so ever that links those vaccinations to onset of autism or anything of that nature.”
“Children of course should be vaccinated,” said Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. “This issue is largely silliness stirred up by the media … Nobody reasonably thinks Chris Christie is opposed to vaccinating kids, other than a bunch of reporters who want to write headlines.”
That should make the media happy, since both Jindal and Rubio’s statements will be taken as shots fired in a “Republican civil war” against Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. (They’ll probably be a lot less eager to pass that Cruz quote around.) Christie has since clarified his position, and seems mostly guilty of poor word choice, high expectations for his blunt speaking style, underestimating the severity of the problem posed by the anti-vaccination movement, and surprise at being the first target in a coordinated Democrat Party/Big Media attack that he didn’t see coming.
Unfortunately for Christie, he’s not a Democrat, and the media reserves clarification privileges almost exclusively for them. Republicans are always pinned up against the wall for every single syllable of their initial comments, even when they’re off-the-cuff or come in response to blue-sky questions, while Democrat are given unlimited opportunities to refine even the most outrageous statements until everyone gets what they “really mean,” assuming their friends in the press haven’t taken it upon themselves to tell America what the Democrat “really meant” from Minute One. Christie ended up canceling three open news conferences on his U.K. trip, snapping: “Is there something you don’t understand about ‘no questions?” at a reporter who tried to ask him a (non-vaccination) question outside the Globe Theater on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, those accursed Fox News guys (with a hearty assist from Jonathan Karl of ABC News) actually dared to ask Obama spokesman Josh Earnest a question that puts Democrats on the spot: does the President believe vaccinations should be made compulsory, at either the federal or state levels?
Earnest stammered out a couple of non-answers that make it crystal clear that there is no great policy difference between Republicans and Democrats on the issue – it’s all a question of rhetoric, particularly the emphasis a given politician puts on urging parents to get their children vaccinated, while conceding the importance of parental rights and acknowledging the authority of state and private operations to set admission requirements.
The rhetoric is important, since the paramount objective is to persuade parents to do the right thing, and politicians need to be careful about tossing any more rhetorical support to the anti-vaxxers. But the media’s pretense that Republicans are uniquely misguided on the issue, while Democrats such as Obama and Hillary Clinton are the soul of reason, is preposterously ignorant of the actual policies in play, the history of Obama and Clinton indulging anti-vaxxers back when just about everyone was doing it, and the true nature of much of the anti-vaccination movement. They’re not by and large a Republican constituency, despite the media’s work on the Democrat Party’s behalf to magically transform them into one.
The Chicago Tribune had a story on Tuesday about measles anxiety reaching Obama’s hometown of Chicago, which isn’t a fortress of the Right by any stretch of the imagination. At the moment, it’s more a matter of parents expressing concern than grappling with pediatric measles cases, but as the Tribune points out, a lot of them are anti-vaxxers having second thoughts:
A measles outbreak spreading across the country is fueling the debate over vaccinations and causing alarm among parents, pediatricians and public health officials in the Chicago area. Doctors are fielding calls from anxious parents — some who are wondering if their vaccinated children are safe, others who are re-examining their decision not to immunize.
“We’ve been getting phone call after phone call,” said Dr. Anita Chandra-Puri, a pediatrician, who estimates that inquiries into her Lincoln Park office regarding vaccines have gone from zero a month ago to about 10 per day. “Parents are asking everything — from whether or not their kids have been immunized to questioning whether it’s safe for them to travel.”
Dr. Robert Minkus has seen a spike too. The Skokie pediatrician said he has received “dozens and dozens” of calls during the last two weeks from parents who had declined or deferred immunizations and have now had a change of heart. “It was different when measles was something abstract,” he said. “But they’re saying, ‘I want it now.'”
Of course, the Tribune goes on to mention the political flap over vaccinations, which it summarizes as follows (my bold):
President Barack Obama this week urged parents to vaccinate their children — calling the science “indisputable” — which prompted Republican presidential hopefuls Chris Christie and Rand Paul to jump into the fray Monday. New Jersey Gov. Christie asserted that parents should have “some measure of choice” about immunizations — a position he later modified, saying that children should be vaccinated.Rand, a Kentucky senator who also is an ophthalmologist,said most vaccinations “ought to be voluntary.”
A significant number of Americans share Rand’s viewpoint. Some 30 percent of Americans say vaccines should be a matter of parental choice, while 68 percent say vaccines should be required, according to a Pew Research Center report released last week.
Christie and Paul didn’t “jump into the fray” – they were asked about vaccinations by journalists, as soon as Obama decided to dump his previous rhetorical reservations about vaccination down the Memory Hole. It’s interesting how quickly everyone got the (possibly figurative) memo to frame the story as Republican politicians and voters fighting an internal war over vaccinations.
Even House Speaker John Boehner got hassled with questions about vaccination, as Dave Wiegel writes in a Bloomberg Politics post entitled “The Great GOP Vaccine Debate of 2015 Is Over, and Vaccines Won.” That’s not quite as ham-fisted as the New York Daily News reporting Ben Carson’s statement with a headline claiming he “Supports Obama’s Call For Parents to Vaccinate Their Children,” but it fits neatly into the Shake-n-Bake bag this whole narrative was cooked up in.
Wiegel claims the rest of the Republican field is running scared after watching Christie and Paul get hammered on vaccinations, which is clearly not true for some of them – Jindal, for example, has been a vaccination supporter for a long time, and Dr. Carson probably didn’t whip up his first opinion on the matter this week. Wiegel also says the Republicans are all going on the record with “pro-coercion positions,” which betrays a mournful misunderstanding of what the word “coercion” means. Hint: there is no coercion involved in saying, even with great passion, what you think people should do.
Not even Obama is “pro-coercion” on vaccinations, as you can see from the little dance performed by his spokesman when a few reporters asked the question they weren’t supposed to ask. The hard, rocky, logical points of this debate remain as they were before the tides of rhetoric and political gamesmanship swept in last weekend: vaccination is essential to stamping out contagions including measles, institutions can set vaccination requirements for admission, and parents have final say in the matter.
Public health is clearly a subject of government interest, but not a blanket authorization for total control. Since everyone from Barack Obama to Rand Paul agrees on those points, can we put this thing to bed now, or does the press feel like it needs to try squeezing another few “Republican civil war” stories out if it?