Monday, December 1, 2008

Why Sometimes It Is Better to Say Nothing at All

(Photo from

We bloggers and citizen journalists are sometimes criticized for distorting facts or misquoting sources. No such luck today, blogophiles (that’s you). Today I quote directly from the mouth of President George W. Bush, specifically from text released by the White House from an interview the President granted his sister, Doro. He said this – I swear:

I’d like to be a President (known) as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace; that focused on individuals rather than process; that rallied people to serve their neighbor; that led an effort to help relieve HIV/AIDS and malaria on places like the continent of Africa; that helped elderly people get prescription drugs and Medicare as a part of the basic package; that came to Washington, D.C., with a set of political statements and worked as hard as I possibly could to do what I told the American people I would do.”
Swiss cheese, I say. So many holes are there in this statement that we may just slap some ham on it, find some rye and call it lunch. Please. Let’s deconstruct the President’s most foolish 95 words, shall we?

For those unfamiliar with PEPFAR, it was the President’s initiative called President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Read all about it if you wish, but as you peruse the propaganda, know this: The plan had two fatal flaws. First, it specified that fully one-third of its funding had to be used to promote sexual abstinence. How’s that working for us, Mr. President? Well, as usual, the numbers tell the story: A study published in the British Medical Journal (Aug. 2007) reveals that school abstinence programs “do not decrease or exacerbate sexual risk among youths” in US schools. One wonders if sexual risk among the same subjects might have decreased with some type of safer sex training. But then, there was no line item built into the PEPFAR budget for that.

While PEPFAR spent valuable days, hours, weeks, years trying to validate its own questionable moral code, the Bush administration skimped so heavily on health funding over the past eight years that sex education is almost non-existent. And all the while, minority populations steadily increased their levels of new HIV infections, with Mr. President doing virtually nothing to address the issue.

So, while it is true that PEPFAR has provided HIV retroviral drugs for nearly a million people worldwide, the pandemic was much broader and faster moving that the administration’s willingness to truly fight it with all possible artillery. PEPFAR also stipulated that the only drugs it would distribute anywhere would be those that had been approved by the Food and Drug administration. The FDA is not always the most reliable source for such approval, since their fast track system sometimes puts drugs in the marketplace before they are fully investigated. What about drugs that have shown similar effectiveness, but in testing in other countries? Some are less expensive, but not qualified under PEPFAR.

Additionally, PEPFAR has been slow to embrace financial support of generic drugs. Instead the U.S. government has favored the support of brand name drugs, which are much more expensive. According to the Report to Congress by the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator on the Use of Generic Drugs in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, by 2007, only 57% of the drugs supported by PEPFAR were generics. Why? Further, the report seems to express governmental pride in the fact that from 2005 to 2007, this percentage increased from a mere 11 percent. Why was PEPFAR not supporting a greater percentage of generics sooner? Draw your own conclusions.(Ron Wurzer/Getty Images)

Among those who truly understand HIV/AIDS, Bush will not leave a legacy of progressive thinking or significant accomplishment domestically or internationally in this arena.

Bush is somehow proud of the fact that during his watch, Medicare’s Part D was introduced. This was the plan whereby seniors might be somehow relieved of some of the financial burden of their prescription drug costs. Gosh, there’s just one problem, and it’s been dubbed the “Donut Hole.” It concerns the discontinuation of benefits once the total paid by the member and the plan hits $2700. Then the citizen is required to pay 100% of the costs up to $4,350. Find me a senior with health care issues who has an extra $1650 lying around and I’ll bet his name is Cheney. Further, there’s a whole list of drugs the plan will not cover, including those for erectile dysfunction. I guess the administration is all for sexual abstinence among seniors, as well. Someday when you are feeling very ambitious, take some speed and read the whole Part D. You’ll need the pharmaceutical help to do it because it’s so boring, poorly written and incomprehensible. Oh, and for the record, amphetamines aren’t covered under Part D.
(photo from

I will not insult your intelligence by addressing Bush’s statement about liberating 50 million people and achieving peace. I will simply prognosticate that the outgoing chief exec will likely not join former President Jimmy Carter and former Vice-President Al Gore in the long list of Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Still, one wonders how President Bush will explain his supposed legacy of peace to the mother of Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Taylor, 25, who died Sept. 21 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when he received small arms fire during dismounted operations. Taylor, who felt he needed to seek justice for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, enlisted in the infantry so that he could have a frontline fighting position.

Taylor's parents and wife last spoke with him by phone one day before he died.. According to a piece in his home town paper, the Charleston Post & Courier: "He called to wish his 5-year-old daughter a happy birthday. But his heart sounded heavy because he hated missing those special occasions. The next day, Sunday, Staff Sgt. Taylor patrolled in Baghdad with his unit when shots rang out in an alleyway. Taylor was struck multiple times by enemy small arms fire." He died in a military hospital, many thousands of miles away from anyone who loved him. He died in George Bush's war about nothing.

On December 1, Bush said, "I think I was unprepared for war...I didn't anticipate war." Mr. Bush's lack of preparation for his job, and his severe lack of foresight cost Staff Sgt. Taylor his life. Taylor and 4,206 other Americans died in vain.

Those deaths, combined with millions of Americans who now suffer with HIV/AIDS and a lack of medical care and appropriate drugs, along with senior citizens who cannot even afford medicine, make George Bush's comments to his sister not just delusional, but reprehensible.

No comments: