Donald Trump dodged Jake Tapper’s attempted science-and-politics knock-out blow — and he did so with authoritative scientific support from rivals Dr. Ben Carson and Dr. Rand Paul.
Trump’s escape in the CNN debate enraged progressives in the TV audience. Some cheered online when Tapper tried to portray Trump as the know-nothing enemy of scientific expertise that supposedly justifies progressives’ power over ordinary Americans’ personal, civic and political lives.
Tapper’s political question is similar to the out-of-nowhere contraception question asked in Jan. 2012 by former Democratic aide George Stephanopoulos to Gov. Mitt Romney, then the leading GOP candidate. Romney was incredulous when asked if contraception should be banned, and he dismissed the question. But Stephanopoulos’ question was still used by Democrats throughout the 2012 election to smear Romney and the GOP as anti-sex.
Tapper began the science ambush by asking Carson about the role of vaccines in the huge and unexplained rise of autism among American children. Since 2000, the rate has roughly doubled, to 1 in 88 children.
“Donald Trump has publicly and repeatedly linked vaccines, childhood vaccines, to autism, which, as you know, the medical community adamantly disputes,” Tapper asked Carson. “You’re a pediatric neurosurgeon. Should Mr. Trump stop saying this?”
Dr. Carson refused to play along. “There has — there have been numerous studies, and they have not demonstrated that there is any correlation between vaccinations and autism,” he began. But he added some general support for Trump’s position.
“He’s an OK doctor… it is true that we are probably giving way too many [vaccines] in too short a period of time,” Carson said, pushing through Tapper’s interventions.
“And that’s all I’m saying, Jake. That’s all I’m saying,” said Trump, collecting his political win.
“Autism has become an epidemic,” Trump said. “Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control.”
“I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time… I had my children taken care of over a long period of time, over a two or three year period of time.”
But Tapper kept pushing. “Dr. [Rand] Paul? Dr. Paul, I’d like to bring you in.”
“I’m also a little concerned about how the [vaccines] are bunched up,” Paul said, echoing Trump.
“My kids had all of their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching them up is a problem, I ought to have the right to spread out my vaccines out a little bit at the very least,” said Doctor Paul, again backing Trump’s position.
The progressives’ subsequent howling was splashed on the Washington Post’s web page, under the hostile headline, “The GOP’s Dangerous Debate on Vaccines And Autism.” Tapper “laid out the question for Ben Carson like a baseball on a tee, just waiting to be crushed… [but] Carson bunted,” the story says.
The article listed the protests and complaints from progressives in the media, from a few advocacy groups and from a few of the nation’s many doctors.
But those complaints can’t do the impossible — they can’t prove that there are no bad results anytime, anywhere when kids get multiple dozes of very beneficial vaccines that have marvelously minimized the pre-1950s death rates among children. That’s an impossible-to-prove negative because human genetics and the human environment are far too varied, diverse, nuanced and complex for anyone to declare that no harm will ever come to any child.
Instead of recognizing diversity, progressives simply demand that ordinary people shut up when experts like them declare what’s best for their children.
For 15 years, scientists and their progressive allies have been insisting on the impossible-to-prove — that there’s no problem with the progressives’ public-health policies. And they’ve been coldly reluctant to recognize even the possibility that some rare, very rare, combination of vaccines, genes, circumstances and professional imperfection can be disastrous for some infants and their parents.
In response to this progressive politicization of science, many creative parents have quietly adopted the recommendations shared by the two GOP doctors — get the vaccines, but get them one-by-one over a longer period of time to reduce the very small chance of harm to their hugely valuable American children.
“It is true that we are probably giving way too many [vaccines] in too short a period of time,” Carson told the disappointed Tapper. “A lot of pediatricians now recognize that… and I think that’s appropriate,” Carson said, twisting the knife.
“I’m in favor of vaccines, do them over a longer period of time, same amount,” Trump told Tapper.
That’s the obvious civic and small-c-conservative, small-d-democratic middle-ground between the many progressives’ extreme insistence that their vaccine policies are just completely perfect, and some parent’s unjustified — and even selfish — extreme refusal to vaccinate their kids from school-shared diseases that once killed many children.
The reasonable American-as-as-apple-pie middle is to muddle along with more science, more testing of alternatives, more civic adjustments, and maybe some parts of the multi-cause problem will get fixed in a few years.
But this live-TV political win for Trump and his two doctor allies may not last.
In January 2012, Stephanopoulos pulled the contraception question out of his assistant’s folder and threw it at Romney.
“Governor Romney, do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception? Or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?” the Democrat asked.
“George, this is an unusual topic that you’re raising,” Romney replied, “Do states have a right to ban contraception? I can’t imagine a state banning contraception. I can’t imagine the circumstances where a state would want to do so…Given that there’s no state that wants to do so, and I don’t know of any candidate that wants to do so.”
Stephanopoulos, the Democrat activist, kept pushing. “Do you believe states have that right or not?” he asked Romney.
Romney pushed back. “The idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do, that no state wants to do, and then asking me whether they can do it or not is kind of a silly thing.”
But it wasn’t a silly thing. It was a Democratic set-up to portray Romney as a sex-hating, out-of-touch, old man.
And President Barack Obama and his campaign aides used the question — but not Romney’s sensible answer — throughout the election to paint the GOP as anti-sex, anti-women, anti-young people, and eager to ban contraception.
They fed that narrative by using their Obamacare power and their media allies to push and shove the Catholic church up against the wall that protects churches form state mandates. To some extent, the tactic worked — and it may this time as well.