THE PETTY TYRANNY OF CLAIRE McCASKILL
On Tuesday, June 17, popular TV talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz was called to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. The apparent aim of having Dr. Oz serve as a witness was to brow beat him into ceasing talk about the effectiveness of weight loss supplements on the Dr. Oz Show. That, at least, was the mission of the Chair of that subcommittee, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, who proved herself to be a petty tyrant in effectuating that mission.
McCaskill is a friend of the pharmaceutical industry, receiving (as Mike Adams recently reported on Natural News) over $146,000 from Express Scripts, a pharmaceutical product retail giant. She is a big fan and defender of the Food and Drug Administration and cheerleader for regulatory enforcement against the makers and sellers of dietary supplements.
Congressional hearings, like the one McCaskill sponsored on June 17, oftentimes devolve into a kangaroo court environment where members jockey for media attention, endeavoring to top one another in the character assassination of witnesses. By creating a media spectacle, they hope and pray for a few moments of precious network air time where they might appear authoritative and sound sonorousto the public. They appreciate every media opportunity to claim credit for taking down folks who are easy popular targets, oftentimes captains of industry (like GM CEO Mary Barra).
Tuesday’s hearing with Dr. Oz was no different. In the midst of it, Chairman McCaskill unwitting revealed some very unflattering things about herself. Her comments and questions made clear that she has little respect for constitutional protection for freedom of the press, no hesitation to abuse the power of her office, and no problem publicly intimidating a talk show host into accepting her editorial prerogatives over his own.
Anyone who respects the Constitution truly would never use public office to censor private speech. Under the First Amendment, the federal government is disarmed of censorship. Our Founding Fathers viewed those royal governors who prosecuted colonists for seditious libel (and who presumed to dictate what could be published) to be anathema to the unalienable right of liberty, so they placed in the Bill of Rights an amendment designed to end that practice. Nevertheless, throughout our history, those like McCaskill cannot resist abusing their public office to prey upon those in the media whose opinions they despise. McCaskill recently lost a little weight through dieting and exercise; she did not rely on dietary supplements to help her achieve her weight loss goals. She takes offense at the notion that others might be aided in their weight loss efforts by the taking of dietary supplements. She communicates the same message on weight loss favored by the FDA and the FTC. She favors those agencies’ ongoing regulatory rampage against supplements in aid of weight loss.
Against that backdrop, McCaskill hammered away at Dr. Oz, explaining that she wanted to make “an example” of him. In no uncertain terms, she let Dr. Oz know that she expected him to do her bidding on the Dr. Oz Show by immediately ceasing the making of favorable comments about supplements for weight loss. Note well that Dr. Oz does not sell dietary supplements he owns on his show; rather, he occasionally voices his opinion about the benefits of dietary supplements made by others that he has investigated and found beneficial. Moreover, Dr. Oz is not a defender of every dietary supplement company; he specifically finds certain dietary supplements of no real benefit.
Assuming the arrogant mantle of a parent scolding a child, McCaskill told Oz: “I know you know how much power you have. You are very powerful . . . You are being made an example of today because of the power you have in this space. We didn’t call this hearing to beat up on you . . . . You can either be part of the police here or you can be part of the problem and we are just hopeful that you will do a better job at being part of the police.”
In other words, McCaskill has a binary view of the world of Oz. Dr. Oz can either “be part of the police” or he will “part of the problem.” There is no in-between. There is much meaning in this. McCaskill is telling Dr. Oz that she expects him to comply with her editorial demands, which, in turn, are representative of the official state view held by the FDA and the FTC, or she will consider him part of the problem (including a not so veiled threat of government action against him). This is an old strong arm tactic. She is threatening Dr. Oz, demanding that either he do as she, Claire McCaskill, says, or else. Police state thuggery of this kind has become more common of late in Senate hearings.
McCaskill wants Dr. Oz to kowtow to her by airing only the commentary she approves or she will take unspecified action against him (hard to reconcile her statement that “you are being made an example of today” with the disingenuous line immediately following, “we didn’t call this hearing to beat up on you,” when in fact she brow beat Dr. Oz for several minutes in nationally televised coverage).
Dr. Oz is no dummy. He got McCaskill’s message. He knows if he does not do as McCaskill demands, she will likely look for a way to punish him. She has friends at the FDA and at the FTC. She can also encourage state regulators to harass him. She knows how to use the power of her office to abuse a person. Dr. Oz knows that if McCaskill unleashes the regulatory dogs against him, he will be forced to expend time and money on defending himself against legal attacks, bad publicity, and interference with his business relationships. He might even suffer a dressing down by his own network.
McCaskill is yet another petty tyrant so common in government today. Her constituents would do well to defend the Constitution by voting her out of office. Friends of Dr. Oz in Missouri should find a good candidate to run against her. Dr. Oz could do himself and the nation a favor by defending his right to press freedom against this blatant attempt to take that freedom away from him.
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