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Chris Christie and Rand Paul’s pandering to antivaccinationists: Is the Republican Party becoming the antivaccine party?


“I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice as well. So that’s a balance the government has to decide.”

— NJ Governor Chris Christie, February 2, 2015

“The state doesn’t own the children. Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom.”

— Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), February 2, 2015

Longtime readers know that I lived in central New Jersey for eight and a half years before taking an opportunity to return to my hometown just under seven years ago. Having spent the better part of a decade there, I think I understand New Jersey, at last the northern and central parts of the state. It’s a strange state with a lot of corruption and mismanagement. (For instance, I was there when Jim McGreevey was governor, and I even met him before he became governor, back when he was still mayor of the Woodbridge Township and then later when he was governor.) Indeed, while I lived there I had a hard time deciding if Chicago politics was more corrupt than New Jersey politics or vice-versa. I ended up deciding that it was pretty much a wash.

Be that as it may, I can sort of understand why New Jersey elected Governor Chris Christie. He’s big—literally. He’s boisterous. He’s blunt and plain-talking (for a politician), and he gives the impression of not taking any guff from anyone while being relatively moderate politically. All of these are very much part of how Jersey natives appeared to view themselves. (Personally, I don’t like him much because I view him as a loudmouthed bully, but I don’t live in New Jersey anymore.) As of yesterday Gov. Christie’s also a poster child for the political peril of pandering to the antivaccine movement. In fact, I view him as Exhibit A supporting a growing belief that I’ve been developing that the Republican Party has become the antivaccine party. Wait, maybe that’s a little too strong, but certainly it has become the party supporting antivaccine viewpoints more strongly than the Democrats.

Behold how this controversy began. There Christie was, in England on a trade visit, doing the things politicians do to try to bolster their foreign policy credentials in preparation for running for President, and he had to go and put his foot in it with respect to vaccines during a visit to a medical research facility. First, as background, you should know that the night before, Sunday night, President Obama had issued an unequivocal call to parents to have their children vaccinated:

“I understand that there are families that in some cases are concerned about the effect of vaccinations. The science is, you know, pretty indisputable. We’ve looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren’t reasons to not,” the president explained.


“You should get your kids vaccinated. It’s good for them, but we should be able to get back to the point where measles effectively is not existing in this country.”

So far, so good. You can’t expect a much more unequivocal statement of support for vaccination than that from a politician.

So Monday morning it just so happened that Governor Christie was touring MedImmune’s research facility in Cambridge. MedImmune just so happens to manufacture a nasal influenza vaccine, FluMist. It’s not clear what moved the subject to vaccines, but during the visit, Christie basically took the opportunity that presented itself to pander to antivaccinationists. It was so bad that even the far-right (oh, heck, let’s just call it what it is, namely wingnut) website described it thusly:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s outreach to the anti-vaccination crowd is one of the strangest things anyone has done during the 2016 shadow primary season. In the midst of a significant outbreak of preventable, communicable diseases among children, Christie decided to throw anti-vaxxers a bone, making President Obama look enormously sensible by comparison.

So what did Christie say that annoyed even’s correspondent? This:

“All I can say is that we vaccinate ours. I think it’s much more important as a parent than as a public official, and that’s what we do,” he told reporters during his trip through London on Monday. He went on to say that’s “part of making sure we protect their health and public health.”

“I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice as well. So that’s a balance the government has to decide,” Christie added.

Asked whether he was advocating leaving parents the option to not vaccinate their kids, Christie said “I didn’t say I’m leaving people the option,” but that “it depends what the vaccine is, what the disease type is and all the rest.”

Oh, dear. Whether Christie realized it or not when he said these words, which must have seemed to him at the time to be an eminently reasonable attempt to describe balancing personal freedom versus public health, he was, as put it, “throwing antivaxxers a bone.” Of course, he was also doing this at the worst possible time. Think about it. Here we are in the middle of a measles outbreak that’s cracked 100 cases, an outbreak in which the majority of cases were not vaccinated, indeed an outbreak that almost certainly wouldn’t have happened if there weren’t pockets of unvaccinated children in southern California near Disneyland, and Gov. Christie’s blathering about vaccine “choice.” His sense of timing is impeccable in its wrongness.

He also revealed himself to have an uncanny ability to demonstrate in a couple of sentences that he doesn’t understand issues of public health with respect to vaccines. After all, parents already do have “vaccine choice.” There is no such thing as “forced vaccination” in this country, no matter how much the antivaccine movement likes to try to characterize it this way. Rather, what we have in this country are school vaccine mandates. It’s very simple, so simple that even Gov. Christie should be able to understand it. No parent is forced to vaccinate her child for anything, but if the parent makes that choice the child will not be allowed to enroll in school or day care. It’s an eminently reasonable compact: You don’t have to vaccinate, but you don’t have the right to let your child endanger others. It’s a system that has served us well for many years. It’s less coercive than actual forced vaccination, which inevitably produces a really nasty backlash, but it still functions well to maintain high levels of vaccination in most cases.

That is, until the rise of various non-medical exemptions.

If you’ve studied vaccination policies, you know that every state allows medical exemptions. That is how it should be. However, there are non-medical exemptions as well. For instance, every state other than West Virginia and Mississippi allows religious exemptions to school vaccine mandates. Yes, I know it’s odd that West Virginia and Mississippi would be leading the nation in rational vaccine policy, but there you have it. Of course, few religions have a problem with vaccination; certainly with only rare exceptions is vaccination against a religion. So religious exemptions tend to be uncommon (although antivaccinationists are not above teaching parents how to lie about their religion in order to obtain religious exemptions).

That’s why antivaccinationists are becoming increasingly fond of personal belief exemptions or, as they are also sometimes called, philosophical exemptions. Currently 20 states permit these exemptions. Basically, these exemptions are granted based on parents’ personal beliefs against vaccines, be they personal, moral or other beliefs. In essence, all a parent has to do is to say she doesn’t believe in vaccinating, and the exemption is granted. True, different states have different requirements, but in all too many states such exemptions are far too easy to obtain. Indeed, that’s why California recently passed a bill to make it harder to obtain personal belief exemptions by requiring parents requesting them to have a health care professional sign the form certifying that he’s counseled them about the risks of skipping vaccination, although Governor Jerry Brown basically neutered the law through a signing statement. In any case, in at least 20 states, parents can obtain exemptions to vaccine mandates, with varying degrees of difficulty in doing so, simply by saying that they “don’t believe” in vaccinating or have some sort of moral or personal objection to vaccination. It is these personal belief objections that have led to pockets of low vaccine uptake and subsequent outbreaks, such as the ones in California and, alas, my own home state.

So right in one interview, Gov. Christie showed that he doesn’t have a clue about vaccine mandates, but worse, that he’s willing to pander to those holding antivaccine beliefs.

Of course, if you’ve been following the story, you know that Gov. Christie started feeling the heat over his ill-advised remarks almost instantly. Twitter erupted in righteous fury mocking Christie’s remarks. In particular, his willingness to quarantine a nurse who might have been exposed to Ebola without medical justification was contrasted unfavorably with his love of “choice” and “freedom” with respect to vaccines. So great was the backlash that Christie’s office scrambled to “clarify“:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie walked back comments he made here Monday morning calling for “balance” on the measles vaccine debate to allow for parental choice, asserting that “there is no question kids should be vaccinated.”

“The Governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated,” Christie’s office said in a statement. “At the same time different states require different degrees of vaccination, which is why he was calling for balance in which ones government should mandate.”


Christie, however, said, “There has to be a balance and it depends on what the vaccine is, what the disease type is, and all the rest.” He added, “Not every vaccine is created equal and not every disease type is as great a public health threat as others.”

This is, of course, a clarification that doesn’t clarify, empty words that say almost nothing, other than that kids should be vaccinated against measles. “Balance”? What does that mean? Does Christie think himself more capable of balancing risks and benefits in determining what vaccines should be recommended than the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics? Does he think himself more qualified to determine which diseases are a sufficient public health threat to warrant a mass vaccination campaign than medical authorities? How would he judge which diseases are sufficiently threatening? What criteria would he use? Based on what science?

Unfortunately, Gov. Christie wasn’t the only one laying down the antivaccine pandering. In fact, compared to Rand Paul, Christie is virtually the voice of reason. See what I mean:

Paul, in comments on conservative talk-radio show host Laura Ingraham’s show Monday, said he’s “not anti-vaccine at all.”

“But particularly, most of them ought to be voluntary,” he added. Paul cited incidents where you have “somebody not wanting to take the smallpox vaccine, and it ruins it for everybody else.”

“I think there are times in which there can be some rules, but for the most part it ought to be voluntary,” Paul went on. “While I think it’s a good idea to take the vaccine, I think that’s a personal decision for individuals to take.”

He also said he was “annoyed” that his kids were supposed to receive the Hepatitis B vaccine as newborns, and that he had doctors space out the 10 vaccines they wanted to give his infant children over time.

And in a later interview with CNBC, Paul suggested he had seen the negative effects of vaccines that those in the anti-vax movement cite in their opposition. None, however, are widely supported by the scientific community, and Paul’s office did not respond to a request for comment for details.

“I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul said. “I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing. But I think the parents should have some input.”

Rand Paul is another sad excuse for a physician. Remember how I described antivaccine “dog whistle” terminology that “Dr. Bob” Sears was so adept at using? Rand Paul is doing exactly the same thing here. He’s using the same appeal to “freedom” as Dr. Bob, and that “annoyance” he expressed at the neonatal dose of hepatitis B vaccine reveals an ignorance that he could easily have remedied with a little reading; you know, that thing we doctors do when we encounter a medical issue with which we are not familiar. Dr. Paul is, after all, an ophthalmologist, and ophthalmologists do not routinely administer vaccinations, much less childhood vaccinations. Indeed, he has even less reason to be familiar with childhood vaccines than the ever-vile Dr. Jack Wolfson who, being a cardiologist, would be expected to offer at least the pneumococcal vaccine to his heart failure patients. As I mentioned before, administering the hepatitis B vaccine at birth is a very reasonable strategy for preventing hepatitis B, and that moralistic trope about its being a sexually transmitted disease is not a reason not to vaccinate newborns.

And Rand Paul also seems unaware that we do not have forced vaccination and that parents do have in put. If they didn’t have the choice, with easy personal belief exemptions allowing parents in 20 states not even to have to choose between public school and vaccines, it’s unlikely that outbreaks would be a problem.

I once described how antivaccinationism is very much at home with libertarianism, to the point where many libertarians express a view recently espoused by Dr. Jack Wolfson that it is not their responsibility to vaccinate, that they have no obligation to society, so much so that they reacted rather violently when one of their own, Ron Bailey of, advocated coercive vaccine mandates. Rand Paul is simply dog whistling from that very playbook. Indeed, check out this interview given later in the day:

You don’t have to watch all nine minutes; that is, unless you want to. Just watch the first 2:20 minutes of the video, which is all about vaccines. Notice how he starts out clearly sarcastic, replying early on, “”I guess being for freedom would be really unusual.” No, Dr. Paul, being “for freedom” is not unusual, but spouting antivaccine nonsense about vaccines causing permanent neurological injury is unconscionable. Personally, I think Paul’s most telling remark comes near the end of the vaccine segment, when, clearly irritated by the reporter’s insistence on pursuing questions about vaccine choice, Rand Paul replies with petulant annoyance, “The state doesn’t own the children. Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom.” Yes, it’s the antivaccine dog whistle about “freedom,” but it’s more than that. See what Rand Paul let slip? It’s an attitude that is all too common, namely that the parents own the children and that parental “rights” trump any rights children might have as autonomous beings. The right of the child and any public health considerations are subsumed to parental “freedom to choose” and “parental rights,” with children viewed, in essence, as their parents’ property, to do with as they will.

As for the rest of the interview, it’s the same old antivaccine dog whistles on steroids. There’s the antivaccine trope against the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine as being not indicated because it’s a sexually transmitted disease, even though hepatitis B is transmitted by more than just sex. The trope is an obvious ploy to outrage parents by telling them that they’re being “forced” to have a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease as though they were immoral. We also learn that Paul delayed vaccines for his children, thus leaving them vulnerable to childhood diseases longer than they needed to be, just like many vaccine averse. Indeed, I’d be very interested in knowing what vaccine the Pauls gave their children and at what ages. He even repeats his claim that vaccines cause neurologic injury, even though, as a physician, he should know damned well that this question has been studied time and time and time again, with the overwhelming scientific consensus being that vaccines do not cause autism, neurodevelopmental disorders, or “profound mental disorders.” And through it all, to Paul vaccine “choice” is all about “freedom.”

Oh, and his selective reading of the history of smallpox vaccination as being “voluntary” throughout most of our history is telling as well. He neglects to note that, as History of Vaccines notes, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the state has the power to make vaccines mandatory.

Is it any surprise that Rand Paul is a prominent member of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), the organization of “brave maverick physicians” that has a history of promoting the lie that shaken baby syndrome is a misdiagnosis for “vaccine injury” and extreme libertarian views, such as the view that Medicare is unconstitutional?

In any case, as a result of Christie’s and Paul’s statements, this story has even hit the national news. For example:

Antivaccinationism is often presented and criticized as a belief that arises primarily among crunchy, affluent liberals. Even The Daily Show makes that mistake. In fact, existing evidence suggests that the prevalence of antivaccine views are very similar on the left and the right, or, as I like to say, antivaccine views transcend politics.

However, the roughly equal prevalence of antivaccine views on the left and right do not mean that both parties are equally good (or bad) when it comes to vaccines. Over the last several years, I’ve noticed that antivaccine views, supported under the rubric of “freedom,” have grown in prominence more in Tea Party and conservative circles. Antivaccine views are very much intertwined with the “health freedom” movement, which tends to be primarily (but certainly not exclusively) a product of right wing circles, given its emphasis on freedom from government regulation and mandates with respect to health. Indeed, it is no coincidence that my one experience watching Steve Novella debate antivaccine physician Julian Whitaker occurred at FreedomFest in 2012, a yearly conservative/libertarian confab that happened to be going on in Las Vegas as TAM that year. Also that same year, the Texas Republican Party had strong “health freedom” and “vaccine choice” planks in its party platform, planks that were still there in 2014.

I don’t think that Gov. Christie is antivaccine (although I’m not so sure about Rand Paul). What I do know is that the conflation of “choice” with vaccination has led to a powerful incentive for politicians, particularly Republican politicians, to pander to antivaccine views. Nor is pandering to the antivaccine movement a new thing for Christie. In 2009 he met with Louise Kuo Habakus (whom we’ve met before) and the NJ Coalition for Vaccine Choice, a very much antivaccine coalition whose member organization list reads like a who’s who of the national antivaccine movement and includes Life Health Choices, an antivaccine organization founded by Habakus. Indeed, Habakus herself is coauthor with antivaccine lawyer Mary Holland of a book entitled Vaccine Epidemic: How Corporate Greed, Biased Science, and Coercive Government Threaten Our Human Rights, Our Health, and Our Children. Indeed, so prominent an antivaccine loon is Habakus (at least in New Jersey, if not nationally), that she has her very own entry in the Encyclopedia of American Loons. To these people, Christie followed up his visit with a letter, quoted thusly:

“I have met with families affected by autism from across the state and have been struck by their incredible grace and courage,” Christie wrote in the letter. “Many of these families have expressed their concern over New Jersey’s highest-in-the nation vaccine mandates. I stand with them now, and will stand with them as their governor in their fight for greater parental involvement in vaccination decisions that affect their children.”

Indeed, Republicans and Independents are more prone to oppose vaccine mandates:

Republicans and independents are more likely than Democrats to advocate against required vaccinations.

Thirty-four percent of Republicans and 33 percent of independents told pollsters that parents should be able to decide about vaccinations, versus just 22 percent of Democrats who said the same.

And, within the past five years or so, Republicans have become LESS likely to say vaccinations should be required, while Democrats are now MORE likely to advocate for the mandatory shots.

In 2009, 71 percent of both Democrats and Republicans said vaccinations should be required. By last August, that number decreased to 65 percent for Republicans, but it’s increased to 76 percent for Democrats.

Not only do antivaccine views fit in nicely with libertarian and Tea Party political beliefs, but such views have become so conflated with “freedom of choice” that it’s become worth it to Republican politicians to espouse these views, or at least to give a nod to them in order to curry favor. It’s not universal, of course. Another Republican physician running for office who is known for saying stupid things about other issues actually has come out strongly supporting vaccine mandates. Yes, believe it or not, Ben Carson did just that. Still, he seems to voicing a less common view within the base of the Republican Party.

I noted back in 2008 that both Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain had, to one degree or another, pandered to the antivaccine movement. Now, in 2015, what we see here appears to be a rising tide of support for “vaccine choice” among Republicans, with a concomitant decrease in support for vaccine mandates, while among Democrats, it would seem that the opposite is happening. Yes, the Democrats have Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, and he is indeed an antivaccine loon, but you don’t see major Democratic candidates pandering to antivaccine views the way Rand Paul did and Chris Christie recently did, nor do you see major liberal confabs staging debates with antivaxers, as happened at FreedomFest.

Maybe the Republican Party really is becoming the party of the antivaccine movement. If that’s true, it is very bad news indeed.

ADDENDUM: This morning the New York Times published a story entitled Measles Proves Delicate Issue to G.O.P. Field. While noting that it isn’t a clean left-right break and that there are pro-vaccine Republicans (such as Scott Walker), the NYT also notes:

But for Republicans like Mr. Paul who appeal to the kind of libertarian conservatives who are influential in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the first two contests in the battle for the nomination, there is an appeal in framing the issue as one of individual liberty.

Asked about immunizations again later on Monday, Mr. Paul was even more insistent, saying it was a question of “freedom.” He grew irritated with a CNBC host who pressed him and snapped: “The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children.”

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

188 replies on “Chris Christie and Rand Paul’s pandering to antivaccinationists: Is the Republican Party becoming the antivaccine party?”

Methinks it will play out much as it did on the very small scale in Connecticut in the mid-terms.

There aren’t many family issues over which the electorate has so clearly spoken through their actions.

What is it about Presidentian wannabes traveling to Brittian and saying stupid stuff (see Bobby Jindal and “no go zones”).

Pandering for votes transcends party affiliation but Republicans, in particular, have a large anti-science constituency. I see incremental improvement on that front but the pace of change can be painfully slow.

What’s with Chris Christie? He knows his every move and his statements are being monitored by the mainstream media, especially since his missteps about the nurse’s “quarantine” who had returned from Africa after caring for Ebola virus patients. IMO, he’s just killed his chances to mount a serious campaign to be nominated as the Republican Party Presidential candidate.

Rand Paul? He just might have positioned himself in a better spot, if, in fact, the far-to-the-right fringe groups/Tea Party are the strong voting bloc in the Republican Party Presidential primaries.

There’s that common thread of “heath freedom” and “right to chose which vaccines (or no vaccines), are given to their children. They own their children and “so sorry if your kid is unable to receive MMR vaccine”. Ethically challenged, lacking in empathy and self-centered parents…all of them.

Haven’t they learned from Michele Bachmann’s statement about an adolescent who received an HPV vaccine “and became mentally retarded, thereafter”?

Orac, I was reading your comments on Dr Burzynski last night, could not comment ‘cos at the end of every page I got : “The site is currently under maintenance. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon”. Well, comments on this page are not disabled and since you have been very actively critisising Dr B for THE LAST FEW YEARS, I hope, you and some of your fans might want to read this. I enclose my mail and I write under my full name unlike the rest of you. This is my cell number +48 505 505 600 just to make sure, that I will not be accused of being another of Dr B’s employee or even Dr B himself.

I’m 52, 3 kids, Gist since 2010, 3 surgeries, tumor 20cm x 10cm fully removed after 18 months on Glivec, complications after op, without Glivec tumor has grown back to the size of 7cm x 4, back on Glivec and stable since 2012.

Am I Dr B patient ? – no, never seen this guy and I will not get paid for what I am writing here
Do I intend to be his patient ? – maybe, when Glivec stops working, but before i will try to gather as much info about Dr B as possible. Luckily I will not have to rely on your comments alone.

Let’s start with facts:

1. it took me few minutes on Google to find a Polish girl, Kalusia Dzieniak with a head tumor, who runs a blog since 2012 describing her fight against cancer.
At the end of her treatment and given no hope in local hospitals, she raised a great amount of money and for the last 2 years she is Dr B’s patient – alive, stable and happy with the treatment she recieves. There are numerous tv shows about her case and over 1600 people on Facebook, rising funds every year to allow her to carry on with the treatment at Dr B clinic. You guys could not find few cases like this in all those years of your “interest” in Dr Darth Vader’s evil manipulations? You spend hours writing about Dr B, how many hours did you spend verifing the “success stories” on his site ? Have you contacted any former patients ? Did you enclose any prove, that the treatment they recieved at Dr B’s clinic was wrong – caused death or injury?

Well, you did not show or proved any of this – exept for long, medical / scientific explanations, that are just your point of view.

I believe, that Dr B runs his clinic for over 20 years – your Dr Mengele must have had thousends of patients and not one, who successfully charged him with malpractise – show that person, let’s read about this case or else shut up and stop defaming others. I showed a positive, documented example of Dr B ongoing treatment, what have you got to show ?

2. Cost of treatment – 10,000 USD per month for a treatment at Dr B’s clinic proves to you that he is a fraud ?? Well, I got a bill for 15000 USD for starters from “politically correct” MD Anderson – they would not accept my molecular tests done in Poland, they have offered to open me up again just to repeat this test.
The needle is not prefered option, as it might cause the cancer to spread.
MD Anderson, after being informed about my medical history and ongoing treatment with Glivec, offered me genetically designed doses of …Glivec.
Well, Glivec depending on the type of gist, IS treated with various douses and that is just the normall procedure – 1 x 400mg, 2 x 300mg or 2 x 400mg daily.
Would you consider this offer for me from MD Anderson as “fraud” by your standards? And if so, shall we start a blog ? You may enclose my story as a first comment.

There are hundreds, if not thousends of semi-doctors and scientists “providing” cancer cures all over the world. Diets, roots, vitamins and mental healing cures everything – according to people that make money in this business.
It is absolutly right to pin point fraud and warn people in need, but one must stay tolerant, unbiased and open minded. Do not kill hope when you are not 110% sure, because often it is the only thing that some of us have left. Check your story, Check your story and again Check your story.


Bad News for Sharyl Attkisson?

Real fans of all this stuff may be interested to know that my new laptop suddenly acted identically to that videod by Sharyl Attkisson as evidence that the government was bugging her.

Out of the blue (although possibly triggered by some unknown sequence of keystrokes) the copy on my screen began deleting itself.

I don’t know if anyone checked whether Ms Attkisson was using a Lenovo, or whether she had the new rent-a-software version of Word, as I have. But if the government was deleting her priceless investigative work, I wonder why it would be deleting my novel.

I understand that she has some multi-million lawsuit going, so maybe my novel will do better than I expected.

I wished I’d videod the phenomenon (on a month-old machine), but I was so alarmed at seeing my writing vanishing that, after helplessly tapping various keys, and mousing around, I shut the lid.

Readers may recall that McGreevey was forced to resign the governorship when it was revealed that he was a closeted gay man who had appointed his boyfriend to a state job despite lack of qualifications. Which prompted the greatest Onion headline, ever:

Gay Man Tearfully Admits to Being Governor of New Jersey

Also, Charlie Pierce (, politics) has a “five-minute rule” regarding Ron and Rand Paul: They may make sense for five minutes, but at 5:01 they’ll say something completely off the wall and you’ll realize that they’re basically a lunatic.

Christie has been influenced by Louise Kuo Habakus (American Loon #163 She is a hater of science and modern technology as part of her woo group Fearless Parents. Bonus to any reader who can find something they don’t fear.

Here, for example of Christie with this American Loon and friends from perhaps 2009.

I think you read far too much into President Obama’s statement. While it certainly encourages parents to immunize their children, it says nothing about what government policy should be towards vaccines. Did he speak out against the personal belief exemption or religious exemptions? Did he discuss the pediatric vaccine schedule and whether it should be followed or whether he believed in a certain latitude in timing?

Sorry democrats, 2 people do not a political party make. You’re confusing the fact that republicans have a wide range of values within their party with dissidence. It’s only because of the strictly enforced “my way or the highway” dogma of the democrat party that you see it this way.

Hmmm, have there recently been prominent Democrats advocating for “vaccine choice” for parents and saying vaccines cause brain damage, as Rand Paul strongly implies when he repeats his story about having seen children suffer neurologic injury after vaccines? BTW, that’s not a new story for Paul. He’s been saying it for years.


I am reminded of when Will Rogers said

I belong to no organized political party. I am a Democrat.

I’ve seen no evidence that the Democrats have a strictly enforced “my way or the highway” dogma. If you’ve got evidence of that, please share.

@Yvette: Yes, I remember about Louise Kuo Habakus. Thanks for that link; I’ve added a blurb to the post mentioning Christie’s having pandered to at least one explicitly antivaccine crank group in New Jersey during his original bid to run for governor.

You know you’ve stepped off the deep end (however temporarily) when even a writer is more sensible than you.

“The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children.”

A rather revealing statement. Sen. Paul views children as chattel. We’ve been hearing similar statements from autism woo pushers as well as anti-vax types. And it’s still so far wrong that I don’t know how Sen. Paul will find right even with a map.

For all these small government Republicans, I’d like to see the cost to each state, county, and city. It would also be interesting to determine the cost to businesses, including but not limited to Disneyland. (And this is for a small outbreak of around 100 people.)

And wouldn’t you know, Rand Paul is featured in a large photo @ AoA today ( -btw- he’s not named after Ayn) with a smaller photo below of that stealthy vaccinator, Barack.

More hilariously, it appears that AoA/ TMR/ et al now have additional television personalities and journalists to despise and abuse whilst championing Attkisson.**- it’s not just Anderson anymore.

Some reactions I’ve heard are that the mainstream is bought and sold thus strengthening alt media ( in their downward spiral down the drainpipe of unreality). As I’ve said many times, these advocacies are ‘group therapy gone wrong’.

Interestingly, anti-vaxxers have been trying to get themselves on mainstream media for the past several years through twitter campaigns, PR announcements, writing ( crappy, fantasist) books and now, they finally will be receiving the attention they deserve but not in a way they like.

** as I mentioned previously,when my own computer behaved bizarrely in November my first thought wasn’t ” North Korea!” but, “I need a new computer”

As we’ve seen over the years, anti-vax views are neither right nor left ( and woo-meisters tailor their anti-vax talking points accordingly- see PRN and NaturaL News esp) BUT I wonder if politicians like the aforementioned might be pushing the faithful towards one end of the spectrum.

re Habakus:
she has been making a splash on alt media running “fearless Parent Radio” and website since MacNeil dropped out.

Randal Paul is not pandering, he is actually that crazy. He panders when he pretends not to be a complete libertarian, ie, no one has any right to tell him to do anything.

Yes, I am sure all the west side mommies causing this crisis are radical republicans. That’s what white upper-middle class women are known for in CA.

In fairness to the President, this is the entire statement, made after a voter came up to talk to him about vaccines:

We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Nobody knows exactly why. There are some people who are suspicious that it’s connected to vaccines and triggers, but (pointing to his right) this person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it. Part of the reason I think it’s very important to research it is those vaccines are also preventing huge numbers of deaths among children and preventing debilitating illnesses like Polio. And so we can’t afford to junk our vaccine system. We’ve got to figure out why is it that this is happening so that we are starting to see a more normal, what was a normal, rate of autism. Because if we keep on seeing increases at the rate we’re seeing we’re never going to have enough money to provide all the special needs, special education funding that’s going to be necessary.”

DATE: April 21, 2008

@ TK:

In fact, one of the idi… I mean *alternative medicine advocates* I survey characterises NY, NJ and CA as the most corrupt and simultaneously most anti-alt med states- they have too many laws that impinge upon his freedom.

Before I depart:
both of these fellows rhapsodise in unencumbered fashion about freedom and choice but IIRC, neither is a particularly strong advocate of *choice* involving abortion and issues concerning women’s reproductive health.

Charlie Pierce just posted a great column on Rand Paul (“Senator Aqua Buddha”) over on Esquire/politics, highlighting his antivax lunacy.

Pierce can be one of America’s finest, and funniest, political writers. That’s what a background in sportswriting gets you.

Looks like the anti-vaccine bashing of Ben Carson bashing is already starting!

From Mothering:

“…do you know that he has part in a group creating a colon cancer vaccine?”

“Yes, Ben Carson is working on a colon cancer vaccine. How did anyone miss that?”

I will never understand the boogeyman of “The government should force parents to vaccinate!” I would think reality and common sense would dictate the need to vaccinate.

Shay @23 –

How is it “in fairness to the President” to bring up a quote from almost 7 years ago and imply that it was part of what he said most recently?

The President appeared to be firmly in the vaccination camp, all the while agreeing to spend coin to research the supposed increase in autism. Randal wants to stop public health needed vaccines.

Paul’s comments are hilarious when set against his avowed anti-abortion stand. Kids belong to their parents, unless the parents don’t want them, then they belong to the state.

LH — because our esteemed box of blinky lights specifically mentioned the 2008 incident which — if you only are aware of the sound-bite — makes it look as though he was “pandering” to the antivaccine movement while running for his first term.

In context, the quote comes off as not quite so anti-vaxx friendly..

I also note that I blogged about the whole quote in detail in 2008 and linked to my discussion in this post. Click the links, people, before you criticize. They’re there for a reason. 🙂

I haven’t combed the numbers (polls) but from my conversations I can say the anit-vaccine loonacy crosses the complete political spectrum from far left progressives to far-right religious zealots. My sister is one of the latter.

I have a new weapon in my anti-lunacy bag of tricks:

See the top comment on the left.. Powerful.

There are really 2 different issues with 4 different policy positions.
Pro or anti-vaccine
Pro or anti- government mandated vaccines

I consider myself pro-vaccine. I have all my vaccinations up to date, I always get the quaternary flu vaccine, my kids are up to date on their vaccines and we even enrolled our children in a phase III trial for a new vaccine.

I also consider myself anti-government mandated vaccination. I can understand government vaccine mandates for places like public schools where kids will be crammed together as long as public schooling is not compulsory.

I think that Orac is lumping these two different issues together under 1 topic. I don’t think that is fair or accurate.

I turned off a national news channel(CNN?) last night while treadmilling, because they were promo-ing “Pediatricians Go Head To Head Over Vaccines”. Couldn’t stand the thought of another round of “both sides”.

But I wasn’t fast enough shutting off the radio at midday when Rush Limbaugh was launching into a screed about how Demoncrats* are intentionally targeting Republican presidential candidates with vaccine questions in order to create a new version of the War On Women.

You see, there’s no debate! It’s a dead issue! Measles was eradicated in the U.S. until Obama relaxed immigration laws and allowed lots of Mexican with rashes over our borders!!

I’ve just got to be faster hitting the off button.

*intentional misspelling.


The Slate article is very good. The anecdote from a reformed anti-vaxxer is helpful for sharing with those n the fence.

Interesting bit of news, thoujgh not exactly welcome around here

Two adults and two children have fallen ill in four separate cases, according to Toronto Public Health.

The message is that measles is circulating in Toronto,” said Dr. Lisa Berger, associate medical officer of health with Toronto Public Health. “There has been spread somewhere.”

Berger said that in three of the four cases, the individuals had not been vaccinated against the disease. In the fourth case, the person received only one dose of the double-dose vaccination, she said.

None are from the same family and there is no source case, said Berger. ”

I was impressed with Rand Paul’s comment “The state doesn’t own the children. Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom.”

How easy is it to transfer ownership?

@16 Eric Lund

“The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children.”

I too am appalled that someone who claims allegiance to libertarian principles would say such a thing. Too often I think the ‘health freedom’ argument for parents control over their children is pitted as freedom vs collectivism, with any govt or CPS control being viewed as ‘collectivism’.

I think that is completely wrong. Vaccination and ensuring proper medical care for children IS an individual rights issue. The individual rights of the child to proper healthcare and the opportunity to reach adulthood. Parents need to realize that THAT is what they should be seeking to uphold, their own children’s rights. Not stripping them away in the name of ‘health freedom’.

Again, the idea that a stalward of the libertarian party doesn’t understand that is incomprehensible…

“Parents own the children.” I’ve long suspected libertarianism isn’t about the desire for freedom for all, it’s about freedom for those who have “earned” it. This certainly goes a long way to support my suspicions.


both of these fellows rhapsodise in unencumbered fashion about freedom and choice but IIRC, neither is a particularly strong advocate of *choice* involving abortion and issues concerning women’s reproductive health.

Typical ladybrain logic fail. Libertarian support for property rights means the right of a man do what he wishes with his property, not that his property has rights. Therefore no contradiction in Rand Paul’s stance on freedumb and choice.

J.K. Rideau

How easy is it to transfer ownership?

According to Micheal Shermer the infallible “mind of the market” will sort that out.

Little Green Footballs has been a very relevant site to the “debate” recently, for example: and
As to Baby Doc Paul and whether parents own their children, we never thought we owned our children, but held them in trust for the adults they have grown to be. I am not a great admirer of Kahlil Gibran*, but his saying that “They come through you but not from you” resonates with me.
Regarding the Hepatitis B — STD trope, as someone who treated HIV patients in the mid-80s, it sounds depressingly familiar – “It’s the queers and junkies, it’s their problem, who cares anyway?” Yet Hep B not only comes through other routes, but it can infect through so many more than HIV far more effectively that refusing the vaccine to your children will come back to bite you, or more accurately, your children, in the ass.
*”People read Gibran when they want to get laid.” – Lenny Bruce

Gray Falcon

I’ve long suspected libertarianism isn’t about the desire for freedom for all, it’s about freedom for those who have “earned” it.

Your rights end where my privilege begins.

All fringe crazies meet around the back. I am a libertarian and I’m shocked that Rand Paul claims to have heard of ( not seen or witnessed)many cases where children have had grave mental injuries from vaccines. How very irresponsible to make that claim and not provide any data to back it up. I’m all for voluntary vaccination however; I believe and as stated in the article, the state has a compelling interest in denying those who chose not to vaccinate attendance at public schools without a medical exemption being the only exception.

I see that AoA is in full-on fetal-position babbling-to-itself mode, with John Stone not just still trying to sell the notion that there have really been only single-digit measles cases, but declaring that “there is a feeling in the air rather like the last days of the Warsaw Pact and the Fall of the Berlin Wall.”

@ Militant Agnostic:

Right, choice is only for the chosen.

If the un-chosen would like to choose their own course in life they can’t. I know that often includes what I mention but I wonder if marriage choice for gay men and lesbians i

Republicans have been the prime movers on the vast majority of antivaccine state legislation introduced in the last several years. To be fair, a few physicians who are also Republican legislators have sponsored bills to limit nonmedical exemptions, but taken as a whole, this stuff gets more support on the right hand side of the aisle, at the state level, in any case.

Take for example this ( interesting new legislator, who took a bill before her committee to allow the department of health (*clutch pearls!*) to set school immunization requirements.

Her contribution to the process? She deleted all of that stuff, added in a new requirement for chickenpox, and created a philosophical exemption for everything. Unfrickinbelieveable.

if marriage choice for gay men and lesbians is acceptable.
AFAIK Paul may support it but most others don’t.

For further evidence of politicizing of the vaccine “debate” , check out today’s editorial in the Wall St. Journal criticizing “Christie’s Vaccine Stumble”.

The editorial slams Christie’s “meandering meditation on parental rights”, praises Obama’s pro-vaccine message (acknowledging that must have been physically painful) and notes that “The real public health problem isn’t a lack of parental choice but a lack of common sense about vaccines, and politicians should do more to promote the latter.”

This is all very nice, but I strongly suspect the Journal is landing on Christie with both feet because the Journal’s editorial board views him as a dangerously “liberal” Republican candidate who must be neutralized before he threatens the nomination of a nice, sensible conservative candidate (interestingly, the editorial says nothing about Rand Paul’s meandering meditations).

This is the same Wall St. Journal that routinely sneers at the idea of climate change, so their newfound allegiance to common sense and scientific consensus is a bit suspect.

DB, as you mention, I do find it interesting that the WSJ stomps on Christie for his mistake, but says nothing about Rand Paul, whose antivaccine spew was clearly way worse than Christie’s, which was far more a stumble based on ignorance and the perilous conflation of “vaccine choice” with freedom. Moreover, Paul has been letting loose antivaccine bons mots for at least five years, if not a lot longer.

I rather suspect that’s the same reason comes down hard on Christie but doesn’t seem to mention Rand Paul.

I would presume that everyone already knows that Senator Paul, like Congressman Paul, opposes government mandates. Thus Senator Paul’s comments come as no particular surprise.

Senator Paul is also an inexperienced politician and (hopefully) not considered as a serious presidential candidate except by a small but vocal group of enthusiasts.

Governor Christie’s rather mild comments, on the other hand, get more play because he is a more experienced politician and a more serious contender for the presidency. The comments are also more vague, giving people lots of room to argue about what he really means.

[email protected]: The Wall Street Journal is ostensibly the mouthpiece of the investor class. If measles (or pertussis, mumps, diphtheria, etc.) outbreaks become common, the government would likely (and justifiably) have to impose some serious travel restrictions. That would be bad for business. Much better if vaccination rates are higher, so that those who can’t get the vaccine (and those for whom the vaccine fails) can hide in the herd.

As for the Pauls: In the last two presidential primaries Ron had a devoted and vocal but small following. Rand might do slightly better, but unless the field is thoroughly fragmented (which the Republican money people are hoping to avoid) I don’t see how he wins the nomination. Note also that Rand’s senate seat is up for re-election in 2016, and Kentucky (unlike some states) does not allow a candidate to appear on both the president/vice president line and another office. So I’d look for Rand to exit the presidential race in late 2015 or early 2016. I’d be surprised if he continues past the New Hampshire primary.

It’s a good thing posts here are moderated. Ron Paul supporters troll the internet for criticism of their guru and unleash a torrent of vitriol when they find (or think they find) some on a news story, blog, or so on.

Rand Paul today released a photo of himself getting a booster shot for Hep A on Capital Hill. The blowback from his recent comments was getting to him.

“It just annoys me that I’m being characterized as someone who’s against vaccines,” Mr. Paul said as he settled into a chair in an examination room in the Capitol physician’s office.

“There’s 400 headlines now that say ‘Paul says vaccines cause mental disorders,’” he added. “That’s not what I said. I said I’ve heard of people who’ve had vaccines and they see a temporal association and they believe that.”

Except that IS what he said. He’s splitting hairs now that his buddies on the Hill are not backing him up.

Panacea, Orac does not “moderate” comments. IIRC, new commenters with new IP addresses are put in moderation, until Orac has the chance to remove them out of moderation. Only very filthy phrases might not be posted…simple no-no words used to emphasize an opinion…will eventually leave moderation and will be posted.

Speaking of libertarian health regulations:

For much of the past 36 or so hours, we’ve heard from a number of Republicans that risking the occasional measles outbreak is simply the price of liberty. While Rand Paul and Chris Christie were busy championing the sacred right to expose others to disease, it fell to freshman Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) to take up the next great cause in the fight for freedom from regulatory overreach. We speak, of course, of the right of restaurants not to require their employees to wash their hands after using the restroom.

Speaking during a question-and-answer session at the Bipartisan Policy Center on Monday, Tillis related a story from his tenure in the North Carolina legislature to help explain his overarching philosophy on the finer points of hand-washing.

“I was having this discussion with someone, and we were at a Starbucks in my district, and we were talking about certain regulations where I felt like maybe you should allow businesses to opt out,” Tillis said. “Let an industry or business opt out as long as they indicate through proper disclosure, through advertising, through employment, literature, whatever else. There’s this level of regulations that maybe they’re on the books, but maybe you can make a market-based decision as to whether or not they should apply to you.”

When Tillis’ interlocutor noticed a Starbucks employee coming out of the restroom and inquired whether Tillis would apply his anti-regulation stance to employee hygiene, Tillis affirmed that he would.

“I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says, ‘We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after they use the restroom,’” he said. “The market will take care of that.”

Great read. Personally, I believe they’ve become the anti-science party and that GOP should now stand for Gobs of Paranoia. Looks like both Christie and Paul are backtracking. Nice to see the RN involved in the anti-science ebola quarantine weigh in on Christe’s actions on this topic.


if marriage choice for gay men and lesbians is acceptable. AFAIK Paul may support it but most others don’t.

This is where they play the States Rights card so they can be both for it and effectively against it.

Slightly off topic: there is a new facebook page encouraging everyone who is pro-vaccines to donate money to UNICEFs vaccination effort, in the name of prominent pro-diseasers (Vaccines from Anti-Vaxxers). Might I suggest Chris Christie, Rand Paul, MAM or the so-called “Dr” Jack Wolfson as suitable recipients. The “Dr” will be receiving a card thanking him for 400 tetanus vaccines to protect mothers and children, and a message stating how I feel about him in a few days. I found it to be a far more satisfying way to let out my anger at these people than repeatedly punching a wall.

On topic: I think that parents should absolutely be able to choose not to vaccinate their kids. However, this choice, like any, has consequences. If they make that choice, they should not be allowed to send their kids to public schools, take them to public parks or use public transportation. If you choose not to participate in public heath measures, you also choose not to participate in any public service where you can infect those who for legitimate medical reasons can’t vaccinate. And of course, if an (intentionally) unvaccinated child starts an outbreak, the parents should be held liable for all costs to society and the individual.


He opposes government mandates *on well-to-do adult men*. He thinks it’s fine to tell a rape victim she has to bear the criminal’s child, but once the woman has made it through pregnancy (at her own expense, of course), he has no objection to letting the child die of whooping cough.

Apparently you didn’t read my post very closely. Actually, I rather suspect you didn’t read it at all, other than perhaps the title. In this post, I actually did make it a point to refer to how all three major candidates in 2008, Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton showed a little too much credulity when it came to the vaccine-autism link. I even linked to blog posts I wrote about each incident back when they happened in 2008.

Seriously. Read the damned post next time.

It is rather interesting how some ostensible libertarians can be so opposed to women’s rights. The actual Libertarian Party platform has a very strong plank supporting women’s right to choose, Faux libertarians have a distressing tendency to be all about freedom until it comes to certain intrusion into private health and sexual matters. On the other hand, to be fair to Paul, he has been generally good opposing foreign military entanglements and the rise of the surveillance state.

Time to get your credit cards out and give to charity on Paul’s and Christie’s behalf. You can buy a donation of vaccines through UNICEF and have a gift card sent to the anti-vaxxer of your choice (with a personal message for extra sneering joy), thanking them for the donation you’ve made as a gift to them.

“I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says, ‘We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after they use the restroom,’” he said. “The market will take care of that.”

Excellent, then he won’t mind those who eschew vaccines and their unvaccinated spawn will be required to wear signs stating such.

Hey, let the market take care of that right?

Videos show that Mr Christie was more subdued today – he didn’t speak to reporters in London.

Orac @67

It is rather interesting how some ostensible libertarians can be so opposed to women’s rights.

I thought I explained it quite clearly at #43

Seriously, this is what you get when you combine the misogyny of abrahamic religion with the sociopathic philosophy of Ayn Rand.

Hey Minions! I worked all day on an anaylsis of the GOP politics around the vax comments, with discussions of the primary/caucus schedule, campaign financing, vax and exemption rates in each of the early states, data from a study in Pediatrics about the difference between anti-vaxers and non-vaxers, more GOP pols who’ve made comments during the day, Hilary’s take, and Ron Paul’s outlook as a ‘serious candidate’.

Yes, it’s almost Oracian in length, but not quite. Please take a look.

Last time this came up I looked into the question of who “owns” the children and concluded that rooted in British common law the state claims to have the strongest claim on “ownership”. By convention, and lacking more suitable candidates, the parents are, by default, given charge of the children until it is shown that they are unwilling or unable to raise them as good citizens.

This is why there are no property rights claims when the state removes children from derelict or abusive parents.

Orac, I see your Christie and Paul and raise you a Walker and a Carson. I love your work, but I don’t see how this supports your notion that the GOP is somehow well on its way to becoming “the antivaccine party”. The fact that Christie had to walk-back some of his comments because of the heat aimed in his direction would seem to also not support the idea that this original comments found fertile ground with the party base.

The fact that Christie had to walk-back some of his comments because of the heat aimed in his direction would seem to also not support the idea that this original comments found fertile ground with the party base.

The conclusion doesn’t really follow from the premise, but that may have something to do with “the party base” not being imbued with any particular meaning.


Last time this came up I looked into the question of who “owns” the children and concluded that rooted in British common law the state claims to have the strongest claim on “ownership”.

Parens patriae has come a long way, baby.

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