Looks like BushCo is once again trying to exert control over scientists who might disagree with the administration’s policies by ordering that “government scientists must be approved by a senior political appointee before they can participate in meetings convened by the World Health Organization.” In other words, only scientists who have been approved by an administration politician will be allowed to participate in WHO conferences. Previously the WHO would directly invite individual scientists to participate, but in April a top official from the Health and Human Services Department asked the WHO to begin routing requests to the department’s secretary for review. The WHO has so far refused to comply with the request citing harm to “the independence of international scientific deliberations.”
The letter to Aitken declaring the new vetting policy was signed by William R. Steiger, special assistant to Thompson. He came to Washington with Thompson from Wisconsin, and is the son of a congressman and the godson of former President George H.W. Bush.
“Except under very limited circumstances, U.S. government experts do not and cannot participate in WHO consultations in their individual capacity,” Steiger wrote. Civil service and other regulations “require HHS experts to serve as representatives of the U.S. government at all times and advocate U.S. government policies.”
The letter asserts that “the current practice in which the WHO invites specific HHS officials by name to serve in these capacities has not always resulted in the most appropriate selections.”
In other words, we’re not happy about the fact that some of the American scientists invited in the past have advocated opinions contrary to official Bush policies simply because they felt the scientific evidence didn’t support the administration’s claims. So we want to implement this new process to ensure that we only send scientists who agree with us, regardless of what the facts might actually be, to any future meetings.
To his credit Rep. Henry A. Waxman complained in a letter to Thompson that the new policy “politicizes the process of providing the expert advice of U.S. scientists to the international community.”
Thompson’s spokesman, Tony Jewell, called Waxman’s criticism “seriously misguided.”
“No one knows better than HHS who the experts are and who can provide the most up-to-date and expert advice,” Jewell said. “The World Health Organization does not know the best people to talk to, but HHS knows. If anyone thinks politics will interfere with Secretary Thompson’s commitment to improve health in every corner of the world, they are sadly mistaken.”
Ah! The old, trust-us-we-know-better-than-you-do argument. Now why would anyone think that a Bush administration political appointee (Thompson) would ever allow politics to override science when determining which experts to send to the WHO? Just because the administration has already demonstrated it’s willingness to dismiss scientists who contradict their official positions from the presidential advisory commission? Just because over 60 prominent scientists accused the administration of “misrepresenting and suppressing scientific knowledge for political purposes” recently? What do they know?! They weren’t vetted by the HHS!
Remember kids: It’s not a good scientific opinion unless it carries the HHS Seal of Approval!