The Case of the Missing Candidates

I’ve still be looking around, trying to get more news on the Holsinger hearing. I saw the second hour, when Patty Murray, Barbara Mikulski, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, and Ted Kennedy challenged Holsinger on his commitment to science over politics. But I wanted to know what happened in the first hour, when, I assumed, the three members of the Senate committee who are also asking to be my president, questioned Holsinger.

Then I found this quote in a news story this morning:

Three Democratic senators on the panel who are presidential candidates and who had publicly expressed reservations about Holsinger — Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Barack Obama of Illinois, and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut — did not attend the hearing.

Did not attend?

These three had previously issued statements of concern about Holsinger’s anti-gay views, but the “bruising” questioning Holsinger was supposed to get didn’t happen. He was able to give pat answers, saying “I don’t hate gay people,” and that’s the story that got picked up. Yeah, and Don Imus said, “I’m not racist.” Very convincing.

Kennedy tried to push Holsinger on the bad science of his 1991 paper, “Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality,” but didn’t seem to have an answer to Holsinger’s excuse that “it wasn’t meant to be published.” He didn’t (at least that I saw) follow up Holsinger’s claim that “That’s not who I am today” with questions about the ex-gay ministry Holsinger founded and still supports, even though it is at odds with every reputable scientific and medical organization. But at least Kennedy stuck to it, focusing correctly on Holsinger’s bad science and not his personal beliefs.

It would have been nice to see the other high-profile Democrats on the committee there. They all released statements expressing their reservations about Holsinger and about how important it was to have the right person in the office of Surgeon General, so why weren’t they there to question him?

In his statement, Obama said:

“America’s top doctor should be a doctor for all Americans, and so I have serious reservations about nominating someone who would inject his own anti-gay ideology into critical decisions about the health and well-being of our nation. As with other nominees, I will listen to the testimony of Dr. James Holsinger, but this Administration must know that the United States Surgeon General’s office is no place for bigotry or ideology that would trump sound science and good judgment.”

He will listen? How, on C-Span?

Clinton said:

“At a time when we have so many pressing public health issues facing us, it is critical we have someone who will inspire confidence among patients, providers and the public. Because of the questions that have been raised about Dr. Holsinger’s qualifications and ability to fulfill the duties of the job, I do not believe that he will be able to provide adequate leadership in the public health field as Surgeon General, and I must go on the record as opposing his nomination.”

Go on record, but not go to the actual hearing?

Dodd said:

“The nomination of James Holsinger demonstrates yet again how this Administration puts politics above the health and well-being of our nation’s citizens. I fear that Dr. Holsinger’s previous comments and actions will prevent him from representing each and every individual – the job of the Surgeon General. The upcoming nomination hearing process will be an opportunity to formally place Dr. Holsinger’s views on the record.”

It was also an opportunity for you to question those views, and you didn’t take it.

Good statements all. I’m happy they released them. But I would have been even happier to see these three make good on those statements, going head-to-head with Holsinger, asking questions and demanding answers, speaking live instead of through polished prepared statements that have doubtlessly been vetted by the PR folks and fine-tuned by campaign staff writers so that they offend the fewest voters possible.

Is it coincidental that it was the three presidential candidates missing? Is it because the schedule of campaigning takes away from their work as senators? Is it because issuing statements is one thing but appearing live in a controversial hearing is too big a risk?

As senators, they have the great privilege of having a voice in this important process. They have the privilege of being our voice. I don’t get to ask Holsinger the questions I want to ask. They do, and they passed.

I’m sure they all had some legitimate scheduling conflict that kept them from the hearing. Probably a campaign speech somewhere where they could talk about how they would win back America in 2008. I wish that to do so didn’t mean missing a chance to help win back America today.

ps: I wish Elizabeth would have had the chance to question him.

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