Dr. Vivek Murthy’s nomination to be U.S. surgeon general was already troubled by his lack of experience or professional accomplishment. But President Obama’s pick to be America’s top doctor faces a new hurdle now that the National Rifle Association openly opposes Murthy due to his zealous opposition to gun rights, calling it a “public health” issue.
British-born Murthy received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard and his medical degree from Yale. At age 36, he has only been a fully licensed physician (i.e., an attending physician) for eight years. While surgeons general are typically chosen from among doctors who have run a countywide system or were the chief medical officer or other top executive of a hospital, Murthy has never even been a department head within a hospital.
Why did Obama ever nominate someone who is so young that he has not had time to build a distinguished medical career? Surgeon general appointments are for great doctors, not those who show promise of one day becoming great.
It appears that the only reason Murthy was considered is his political support for Obama and left-wing causes. In 2008 he founded the group “Doctors for Obama” to help elect the president. After Obama’s election, Murthy renamed the group “Doctors for America” and supported massively expanding the federal government’s role in healthcare, and what eventually became the Affordable Care Act.
But that did not stir the NRA to opposition. Murthy also used this group to push gun control. For example, in 2012 he tweeted, “Tired of politicians playing politics [with] guns, putting lives at risk [because] they’re scared of NRA. Guns are a health care issue.”
In terms of specific advocacy, Murthy pushed not only for Obama’s failed gun-control bill after the Newtown tragedy but additional measures far more restrictive than anything in recent legislation. Murthy supports mandatory training and licensing before an American citizen can purchase a firearm, and also mandatory waiting periods and gun-rationing programs such as limiting how much ammunition a person can buy.
The problem for Murthy is that gun ownership is a constitutional right, not a public-health nuisance. It is a civil right, not a disease. The Supreme Court has held that as a fundamental right, the Second Amendment must be given the same respect in law that attend other fundamental rights, such as those in the First Amendment. So as a matter of constitutional law, requiring someone to get a license to own a gun is like requiring someone to get a license to go to church. Some gun-control enclaves such as Washington, D.C., require a firearms license for the home, but those measures are currently in court.
Concerned about how Murthy could use the “bully pulpit” as “the nation’s doctor” to push a gun-control agenda under the aegis of “public health,” on Mar. 14, the NRA sent a letter to all U.S. senators informing them that the NRA opposes the nomination. And Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, went on Megyn Kelly’s show on Fox News to make the case against Murthy, and to make clear that the NRA will factor in each senator’s vote on Murthy into the grade they assign the senator before the next election.
Even under the post-filibuster regime that Sen. Harry Reid forced through in November, it didn’t take long for vulnerable Democrats to make clear that they did not want to vote for this nomination. A negative rating from the NRA can be devastating in many states.
On Mar. 19, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney denied the Obama Administration planned to abandon Murthy’s nomination. “We expect him to get confirmed ultimately and be one of the country’s most powerful messengers on health and wellness,” Carney said. “We’re recalibrating our approach, but in answer to your question, no,” he told reporters asking whether the White House would let go of Murthy’s nomination.
However, the Senate’s support is in doubt. It’s unknown whether his nomination will languish for a number of months or whether Murthy will attempt to save face by withdrawing. But senators will start making their opposition public, and it now looks very likely that Dr. Vivek Murthy will never become America’s top doctor.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.