Bob Franken: Bitter, nasty medicine

  • By Bob Franken
  • Saturday, February 7, 2015 3:56pm
  • Opinion

It’s easy to see the differences between Marshawn Lynch and Chris Christie — really, really easy — but the two have some traits in common. Lynch is the running back for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks who famously likes to diss the media when it suits his purposes. Christie is also someone who’s running, but he’s nasty to the press if they don’t suit his purposes. When reporters tagging along on what was supposed to be his London photo-op trip continued to pepper him with questions after he said he didn’t want to talk with them, he snarled “Is there something you don’t understand about ‘no questions.’”

Christie seems to snarl a lot. He’s the guy who told a persistent critic at a ceremonial gathering to “sit down and shut up.” This is the same Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, who believes that his Jersey way of bad manners will work on the national level. He’s all but sure to get in the presidential race. The best that can be said about him is that he runs a real mean charm offensive.

Of course, it’s not hard to understand why he was a tad defensive in Londontown. After all, the herd of journalists had asked him earlier about the current spread of measles and the controversy over those who refuse to get their children immunized in the face of overwhelming assurances from medical professionals that vaccines are safe, effective and necessary to protect everyone else’s kids. His answer caused him no small amount of grief: While supporting the idea of vaccinations, he went on to say “But I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

He didn’t want to create a firestorm, but he did. So much so that his peeps spent hours clarifying what he meant — which was supposed to be that vaccinations are truly a good and necessary thing, based on settled science and not a danger of causing autism. The single study that suggested a link has been long discredited, but the Internet doesn’t discriminate when it comes to truth versus inflammatory fiction. And so while trying to buttress his conservative bona fides by paying homage to the concept of individual parental choice, he left himself open to questions about the need to resist the danger to society of the irresponsible parent.

Suddenly Christie had found himself way out there, in the company of Rand Paul, who in his role of superlibertarian insisted: “The state doesn’t own your children, parents own their children, and it is an issue of freedom.” Paul ignores the fact that most parents want to keep their kids from dangerous exposure. He got so much scorn heaped upon him that he hastily arranged to be in front of cameras receiving a random hepatitis booster shot (call it a photo shot).

Notwithstanding the political pandering (is that a redundancy?), in fairness it is easy to understand why many of us are skeptical of assurances coming from the medical profession. These are the same providers who overprescribe antibiotics and antidepressants, give speed to kids who are just rambunctious and, for only minor pain, will write out a prescription for dangerously addictive and even deadly opiates. Most doctors and nurses deserve the high standing they enjoy in the community, but far too many maximize profits and minimize the needs of their patients.

In the process, they undermine the credibility of those public health professionals who advocate immunization and belittle anybody who dares question their conclusions. In this particular case, however, the questions have been adequately answered.

Unfortunately, we will never do away with the politicians who believe that their every utterance should be accepted as gospel. That, by the way, doesn’t just describe Chris Christie, but almost all of them, who feel that the best thing those pesky reporters could do is to also “sit down and shut up.” We won’t, no matter how ugly they get.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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