Thanks To the NRA, The US Has No Surgeon General Overseeing the Ebola Threat

There has been no dearth of pundits using various media forums to discuss the arrival of the deadly Ebola virus in America, and they have had a fair measure of success frightening a surprisingly large segment of the population. Republicans and their conservative cabal have even combined their ISIL fear-mongering with their immigration fear-mongering to distract Americans going into an important midterm election. Except for the medical researchers and infectious disease scientists from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institute of Health (NIH), there has been precious little information from real medical professionals of any repute that could relieve the rising fear and anxiety among the population that knows little about the virus, or what precautions they need, if any, to protect themselves and their families.

Although experts claim there is little reason for panic of a devastating outbreak of the deadly virus in America, a recent Harvard poll revealed that 39% of American adults are worried about a large-scale outbreak and over 25% are mortified that an immediate family member will be stricken with the infectious virus and die.  What America needs at times like this is a trusted public health expert and medical professional to educate the public about the risk of contracting Ebola and reassure them that there is little to worry about and what steps to take to stay safe and Ebola-free.

On Sunday morning political shows, it was left to an official with the Obama administration, senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer, to talk about the deadly Ebola virus. Obviously, Pfeiffer’s political expertise does not qualify him to reassure the public about a potential infectious disease  health crisis, and it may have led one to wonder exactly where “America’s doctor,” the Surgeon General of the United States, is hiding and why they are not stepping into the spotlight to put Americans’ minds at ease. The truth is this nation has not had a Surgeon General for a year, but not because President Obama failed to appoint an extremely qualified candidate; he did last November. However, the National Rifle Association, no Americans’ idea of an organization concerned with the health and safety or preventing even one American citizen’s death, issued an edict to Senate Republicans that a vote to confirm the President’s appointee meant an immediate end to their political career. Going into a hotly contested midterm election, Senate Republicans did precisely as their NRA masters dictated and made sure America will not have a Surgeon General unless they support spreading the epidemic of gun deaths in America.

Last November 14th, the President nominated Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, an extremely qualified candidate to replace ‘acting’ Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin. It took three months, but the Senate finally got around to holding a confirmation hearing for Dr. Murthy’s appointment. However, the National Rifle Association exerted its very substantial legislative prerogative and blocked Murthy’s confirmation because he does not recognize that the NRA is “fourth and all-powerful branch of the federal government” and called for sane gun restrictions to prevent more Americans from dying unnecessarily from the gun violence epidemic. It is exactly what a real medical professional, and highly-qualified potential Surgeon General of the United States, is supposed to do; help prevent a deadly epidemic from spreading to save American lives.

The fear among the public of widespread deaths from Ebola is curious, especially when there is a legitimate national epidemic of gun violence leading to widespread deaths among the American population. It is noteworthy that there has been exactly one Ebola death in America, and yet according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, at least 32 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 140 are treated for gun assaults in emergency rooms. The  cost to America’s youth in deaths are an average of eight children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day, and the lifetime medical cost for the victims of the gun violence epidemic is over $2.3 billion with a little over half the costs being borne by taxpayers.

Medical professionals, including America’s doctors in emergency trauma centers like Vivek H. Murthy, get to see the firearm epidemic’s death and destruction first hand and understand the real toll of the gun violence epidemic. The NRA purported that Dr. Murthy is “picking on poor gun fanatics,” but doctors do not discriminate and advise motorcyclists to wear helmets, warn Americans not to drink and drive, and suggest that all Americans to eat healthier in order to live longer in relatively productive and active lives. Speaking out about the gun violence epidemic to protect Americans is no different except that it is contrary to what the real power in Washington will allow to stand.

Obviously, Republicans are going to block any Obama nominee according to their race-driven obstructionism, but coupled with their dedication to the NRA and fear of crossing the second most powerful arm of government after the Koch brothers, Murthy will never get a vote until he calls for every man, woman, and child to carry loaded firearms in public. However, another part of the problem is a few red-state Democrats who are mortified of displeasing their NRA Senate leaders and were more intently focused on their re-elections back in January than confirming a Surgeon General intently focused on slowing the epidemic of gun deaths in America.

Administration officials claim that they “are recalibrating our strategy around his (Murthy’s) floor vote,” and added that “a range of options was being discussed.” They include working with less-timid Democratic leaders to offer gifts to red-state Democrats for a confirmation vote, delaying a vote until after midterm elections so Republicans can possibly forbid any nominee from being confirmed, “allowing” the highly-qualified Dr. Murthy to withdraw, or just let the NRA appoint and confirm Ted Nugent as United  States Surgeon General and bypass the Senate. That is how horribly dysfunctional and fearful Washington has become of Republicans and their masters; look for a range of options to garner support so Americans can have the luxury of a qualified Surgeon General.

After the news yesterday that Democrats were finally informing Americans that it is ten years’ worth of Republican cuts to the CDC and NIH budgets that prevented them from already having a vaccine available to halt “the Ebola virus in its tracks,” maybe they will find the courage to inform Americans why they have no Surgeon General. One liberal pundit mysteriously assailed the Obama Administration for not fighting harder for Murthy’s confirmation in one breath, and then wondered why on Earth the President appointed a highly-qualified candidate he knew the NRA would not confirm. Washington is badly broken.

It is a sad state of affairs when Republicans and their NRA masters are able to wield such powerful influence over some Democrats that they will not vote to confirm Dr. Murthy. Ebola is not an epidemic in America and a trusted Surgeon General would ease the fear and anxiety among the growing number of Americans worried they or their families will contract and succumb to the virus. However, because the qualified Surgeon General candidate believes easing the proliferation of guns driving the real American epidemic killing over a hundred Americans daily and injuring even more, the National Rifle Association, Republicans, and a few gun-shy Democrats will not allow his confirmation.

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