This week Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional panel that when he was Surgeon General, the Bush administration repeatedly watered down or suppressed his public health efforts, including those on tobacco and secondhand smoke.
Dr. Carmona served as Surgeon General from 2002 to 2006. During that time he was invited to testify in the DoJ tobacco trial. But top Bush administration officials discouraged him from testifying — while at the same time they were telling the lead DoJ lawyer that he was not competent to testify.
Dr. Carmona also said that Bush administration officials delayed for years his report on secondhand smoke, and pressured him to water it down.
Dr. Carmona’s comments this week helped fill out the picture of Bush interference to help the tobacco industry in this trial. Comments from Sharon Eubanks and others have already shed light on how DoJ was forced to fight with their hands tied behind their backs. Carmona’s new information shows how this fits into a larger pattern. The Bush administration has been very tobacco-friendly.
Carmona’s revelations this week helped show how the Bush administration carried water for Big Tobacco.
However the real big picture is: most administrations are tobacco friendly, and so are most Congresses. A widely believed myth: the government is a big nanny, imposing health restrictions on people. The fact: the government more often does the bidding of Big Tobacco than does anything that would hurt it, like reducing smoking.
The sabotaging of the DoJ trial by the Bush administration is a good case in point. It is not suprising that the practical outcome of the trial, at least so far, has been that it hasn’t hurt Big Tobacco. The Bush administration was not going to let that happen.
The surprising thing is that despite everything that Big Tobacco could do, and everything that the Bush administration did to help it, the legal outcome was still conviction. Philip Morris is still an adjudicated racketeer. I attribute that to the strength of the evidence. No honest judge could conclude otherwise.
This brings us to the present: Big Tobacco has been found guilty– but it got a get out of jail free card. The court found that a massive 50-year long conspiracy led to the death of literally millions of people — but no penalty could be given that would stop it. In large part because of political interference in the trial.
This is an outstanding example illustrating why it’s a myth that the story of tobacco is a story of nanny government. On the contrary! In this example we see how government is more often the problem with tobacco than the solution, more often the protector of Big Tobacco’s interests than the protector of the public interest.