John Stoehr of the Washington Spectator has a new piece up in which he encourages (without much hope) the Obama administration to use the furor and panic over the Ebola virus to make an effort to ram home their nominee for Surgeon General, despite the fact that Vivek Murthy is being opposed for his alleged “anti-gun” attitude.
The position of the surgeon general has been vacant so long no one remembers who last occupied it. That’s in part due to the president’s competing priorities but it’s mostly due to a filibuster last spring by Senate Republicans of Obama’s highly qualified nominee, Vivek Murthy. The reason is quite plain. Murthy is outspoken in the belief that gun violence is not a constitutional issue but a health issue. The National Rifle Association fears that is cannot control a political narrative outside the one it controls—the right to bear arms being a universal, constitutional, individual and sacred right that cannot be infringed by the federal government. The vocal but weak gun-control faction in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party cannot compete with such a narrative because their narrative tells the story of taking something away—guns and freedom, in the opposing view. Only a narrative as powerful, and as fear-inducing, as a public health threat like the one we’re currently seeing has the strength to rival the dominance of the NRA’s narrative. So Obama has an opportunity to ram through his nominee. That is, if he chose to.
Mr. Stoehr thinks that the administration will not do this because Democrats are conflict-shy. There’s something to that argument. It’s always a balance with Obama. He doesn’t like to pick fights he can’t win, and that’s usually the smart move. But, in politics, in a political season, in the midst of a public health panic, it might be the right time to pick a fight without gaming out the end game. It might just be an example of when doing the right thing is good politics, even if you lose on the issue at hand.