I just read Paul Krugman’s blog post on Sanjay Gupta as a possible Surgeon General. It was such sweet relief to realize that I was not alone in holding the man in low esteem ever since that spat with Michael Moore over the facts in the documentary Sicko.

Don’t get me wrong. I do have my issues with Michael Moore as well as with his film. But overall, on the facts, he was right about what ails the US healthcare system. Gupta as a Medical correspondent for CNN was supposed to critique the film and as in most critiques, highlight factual errors, exaggerations, looseness with the truth and overall provide as objective an opinion as is expected of a journalist about the film. He did none of that. His review was such a hatchet job that Moore had to provide point by point rebuttals on his website and even in the “debate” between the two that took place on Larry King Live, Gupta kept on repeating his falsehoods aided by the talking corpse himself who forgot that his job was to moderate. 

After watching that, I wondered what justified Gupta’s review of the movie. Was it personal? It couldn’t be. He was (and is) a university professor, a neurosurgeon, a former special adviser to then First Lady Hillary Clinton. Why would he pick on Michael Moore? Was it ideological? Was he one of those free-market conservatives who just hate “socialized medicine”? Gupta did not seem to have an ideological bend. Then maybe it was a professional issue; Gupta as a Doctor in the US Healthcare system that was being attacked, also felt attacked and wanted to strike back.  Well, not quite either. After all, many other American doctors who work dutifully in the US system recognize its shortcomings and do not get any flack for speaking up about it.

So why was Gupta so opposed to Sicko to the point of fudging facts and journalistically botching a review? I could only draw the same conclusion Krugman has drawn. Gupta was perfectly happy with getting “things  wrong in a socially acceptable way.” In other words, he was aware of the public mood on the issue and he chose to align his critique to that socially acceptable opinion irrespective of the facts. This is the kind of behavior pathological social-ladder climbers learn to perfect early. This is typical of  what the Canadian thinker John Ralston Saul calls a “courtier” or a “Voltaire bastard”; a man who either has no opinions of his own or is perfectly happy to substitute them with anything that can advance his career, create new friends that can advance his carreer or open doors to new careers or new revenues. That is unfortunately also a character flaw in my book.

 Now, Sanjay Gupta may be very qualified to be Surgeon General. I do not know. I am not qualified to make that judgement. What are the required qualifications for that job, anyway? But one thing is certain. A Surgeon General of United States should have a closer relationship with facts than Sanjay Gupta does. He or she should certainly hold opinions backed by empirical evidence and be willing to stand by those opinions regardless of the public mood. That after all is one of the indicators of a good scientist.

Rachel Sklar called Sanjay Gupta  a dick. I will not do such a thing. But if pushed, I will happily quote Sklar.

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Boy, how  things just tend to happen when nobody is paying attention, huh!

Let’s see, since most of North America took a break to open presents, eat too much, drink too much and generally stay away from anything of importance, the following important things happened:

1- Israel & Hamas decided to start another mini-war

2-Rod Blagojevich gave the finger to the whole Democratic party by nominating Roland Burris to the US Senate

3-Bill Richardson withdrew as Obama’s Commerce Secretary because of corruption investigations

4-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid more or less reiterated his belief that George W. Bush is the worst President the United States ever had.

5-Obama proposed a ginormous stimulus package with a mix of personal and business tax cuts as well as job creating infrastructure programs.

 6-Roland Burris went to the US Senate and was refused a seat

7-Leon Panetta was mentionned as Obama’s pick for CIA chief much to the chagrin of many including Senate Inteligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein

8-Sanjay Gupta (of CNN fame) was floated as a possible Surgeon General of the United States

9-Al Franken almost won a senate seat in Minnesota

What to say about any of these? Well, maybe one word here and there would do for now. We all just got back,right?

On the Burris issue, I would say either way the Democrats play this, they’re in for a lengthy legal battle unless either Burris chooses to withdraw or is somehow “bought out”. But it seems that by all legal accounts,  as the still governor of Illinois,Rod Blagojevic was fully entitled to make the nomination. How this plays politically though,… well,…

On Richardson withdrawing, it is truly sad, because I would have liked him as Secretary of State instead of Clinton. But in politics, illusions tend to be reality more so than in other environments.  And as such, even talk of an investigation was enough to prevent Richardson from coming back to Washington. Too bad. Hopefully Obama gets a second term and he could serve then.

On Israel and Hamas, I have nothing to add other than this is just another battle in a long war that will never end unless a President of the United States is willing to stake his presidency on resolving the conflict.

Let’s hope Obama is thatPresident.