Obama’s Change Express Hits Another Bump in the Road: Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General?

moore_guptaSo far, President-elect Obama’s cabinet appointments have been great, and not-so great. And a couple have been blatantly stupid (like Education and Interior, for example). And while I have no question about Sanjay Gupta’s medical qualifications, I have serious questions about what he has said about universal healthcare, and the fact that he called Michael Moore a liar for facts presented in Sicko — when it was Gupta and CNN who had their facts wrong. As  Paul Krugman says:

I don’t have a problem with Gupta’s qualifications. But I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko. You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.

What bothered me about the incident was that it was what Digby would call Village behavior: Moore is an outsider, he’s uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right. It’s sort of a minor-league version of the way people who pointed out in real time that Bush was misleading us into war are to this day considered less “serious” than people who waited until it was fashionable to reach that conclusion. And appointing Gupta now, although it’s a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way.

Crooks and Liars has the video up of Dr. Gupta in all his smarmy glory.

Shakespeare’s Sister agrees. Seems Dr. Gupta is not exactly a friend to working mothers, who he feels are responsible for the growing childhood obesity problem in America. Forget our culture’s obsession with fast food and the removal of exercise programs in our schools. It’s the working mothers‘ fault, of course!

This is “change” ?



  1. Morgan, thanks for the link. I tried to listen to Ezra Klein, but I find his habit of saying “Right?” after a statement so annoying that I miss his point. I think he was saying Gupta will be a media savvy advocate for Obama’s health care plan.

    Sara, I know. All I know is that my first thought when I heard Gupta had been picked was back to his false accusations about Michael Moore. That did not impress me.

  2. I think Gupta’s issues (re: Michael Moore and also the whole working mother-obesity thing) are more a function of modern News-Entertainment TV than necessarily how he will be as a Surgeon General. I read the transcript of the working mother-obesity issue over at the link you posted and I felt it was the usual lightweight pap that all of these feature issues tend to be, whether the “news” commentator is a doctor or just a regular broadcaster. The “some people say” gambit and the “show the various sides of the story” ploy, etc., without ever really committing to anything definite and getting a bunch of half-baked theories out there.

    I am hoping he will be a good Do-Bee and do what Obama wants him to do and, as Klein said last night, act as the communicator between the administration and the public on healthcare reform. According to Klein, he thinks it’s a good choice because Gupta will be able to make the case to the public that universal healthcare doesn’t mean you can’t go to your own doctor anymore, or whatever other stupidities the GOP promoted that helped defeat Hillary’s healthcare plan.

    My theory is Obama wanted a personable, kind of “cool” surgeon general who will reach people who the previous ones were not able to reach, due to his PR abilities. We shall see, I guess.

  3. I have real mixed feelings about this. I think Gupta could be an extremely effective communicator when it comes to public health, but my fear is he’d focus on OMG Teh Fat! instead of having the cojones to tell adolescents to use condoms or to address major problems like dwindling access to basic health care.

    Have not heard any interesting comments regarding Gupta here at Large Nameless Agency, but I have a hunch the epidemiologists aren’t too thrilled. But then a lot of them tend to kind of sneer at clinicians in general, so someone who’s both a clinician and a journalist like Gupta has to strike them as totally unqualified.

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