AUSTIN, Texas -- So here are all the liberals going into a giant snit just because George W. Bush appointed a veterinarian to head the women's health section of the Food and Drug Administration. For Pete's sake, you whiners, the only reason he chose the vet is because Michael Brown wasn't available.
If you recall, Ol' Heckuva-Job Brownie had to go home, walk his dog and then hug his wife after exhausting himself in his triumphal handling of Hurricane Katrina. Otherwise, he'd have been Bush's first pick.
Now, even the veterinarian doesn't get the job -- just because those professional feminists raised such a stink. What's wrong with a vet? They know a lot about birth and udders and stuff. If the mother is having trouble giving birth, you grab the baby by the legs and pull it out -- it's not brain surgery. Then you worm 'em, you tag 'em and you spray for fleas. Why the fuss?
The only reason Bush even needed a new head of the Office of Women's Health is because the last one, Susan Wood, quit. She was upset because the political hacks who run the agency refused to allow over-the-counter sale of the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B.
True, that decision was made against the advice of the FDA's own scientific advisory panel and will unquestionably result in more abortions and almost certainly damage to some women's health. But why would anyone expect the Bush hacks to pay attention to scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended by the professional staff? Just like the folks at FEMA, they got their jobs because they know how to set up photo-ops for Bush.
There's a doctoral dissertation to be written about Bush appointees named during the administration's frequent fits of Petulant Pique. These PP appointments are made in the immortal childhood spirit of "nanny-nanny boo-boo, I'll show you." Susan Wood resigns in protest over the politicization of women's health care? Ha! We'll show her -- we'll put a vet in charge, instead.
The PP appointments are less for reasons of ideology or even rewarding the politically faithful than just in the old nyeh-nyeh spirit. You could, for example, put any number of people at the Department of Labor who are wholly unsympathetic to the labor movement -- Bush has installed shoals of them already. But there is a certain arch, flippant malice to making Edwin Foulke assistant secretary in charge of the health and safety of workers.
Republican appointees who oppose the agencies to which they are assigned are a dime a dozen, but Foulke is a partner from the most notorious union-busting law firm in the country. What he does for a living is destroy the only organizations that care about workers' health and safety.
Here's another PP pick: put a timber industry lobbyist in as head of the Forest Service. How about a mining industry lobbyist who believes public lands are unconstitutional in charge of the public lands? Nice shot. A utility lobbyist who represented the worst air polluters in the country as head of the clean air division at the EPA? A laff riot. As head of the Superfund, a woman whose last job was teaching corporate polluters how to evade Superfund regulations? Cute, cute, cute. A Monsanto lobbyist as No. 2 at the EPA. A lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute at the Council on Environmental Quality. And so on. And so forth.
The Federal Trade Commission was finally embarrassed enough by demands from Democratic governors to start an investigation into recent price gouging by oil companies. But the investigation will be headed by a former lawyer for ChevronTexaco. Is this fun or what? Nanny-nanny boo-boo.
The terrible lesson of Hurricane Katrina is that public policy is not a political gotcha game. The public interest is not well-served by appointing incompetents or anti-competents to positions of responsibility. Public policy is about our lives.
Here's another example: The Violence Against Women Act expires on Oct. 1 and must be reauthorized before then. It doesn't look good. For 10 years, this law has helped improve criminal justice and community-based responses to sexual violence and sexual assault. As result, there has been an overall decline in the incidence of women battered or killed by their partners.
But as the July-August issue of Mother Jones painfully demonstrates, domestic violence remains a hideous problem. It is both a public health and a human rights issue. Homicide is the 10th leading cause of death for women under 65. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, about 30 percent of American women report being physically abused by husbands or boyfriends. Every year, more than 300,000 U.S. women are raped and more than 4 million assaulted. Funding for family violence prevention was cut by $48 million this year.
I guess it would be pretty funny, on some level, to put a vet in charge of this issue, too. But let's not. This is about people's lives. I've already seen too many people staring numbly at walls, still in shock. Let's start by getting Congress to at least reauthorize the act. The arsenal of democracy starts with the telephone, the fax machine, the e-mail, paper and pen. Just sign it, "Your constituent."
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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