I can’t make up my mind over this whole controversy. I think I’m torn because both sides are making good and bad arguments. I think the charge of crony capitalism against Perry is valid generally and looks on target in this case in particular. The issue isn’t just that he got $5,000 from Merck. It’s that his former chief of staff was a lobbyist for Merck. I think Perry’s partial apology is heartfelt. He did it the wrong way and has said so. On the other hand, I think his argument that he did this because he will always “support life” is dangerous hogwash. He mandated government inoculations against STDs because he’s a pro-lifer? It takes some pretty circuitous reasoning to get there, and in the process you’ve conceded the case for pretty much every other kind of health-care intervention by the state up to and including Obamacare.
Meanwhile, I think Michele Bachmann’s attacks on Perry are irresponsible and borderline demagogic. References to the “government needle” being “pushed into innocent girls,” sound paranoid and exploitative to me. And fueling anti-vaccine fears to score political points against Perry is beneath her. I think Fox or some other news outlet should investigate Bachmann’s claim last night on Greta Van Susteren’s show. Bachmann said that a member of the audience came up to her and told her with tears in her eyes that Gardasil caused “mental retardation” in her daughter. I’m not doubting that someone told Bachmann that, but it’s a pretty serious — and unusual — claim. Regardless, the suggestion that Rick Perry is in any way responsible for it is ludicrous.
Santorum’s objections seem the most philosophically sound to me. I agree with him that there should have been more of an opt-in rather than an opt-out provision. And I agree with both Bachmann and Santorum that this shouldn’t have been done as a mandate from the governor’s office. But I can’t muster much outrage over the underlying policy of offering the vaccination as a general proposition.
I’ll keep noodling.