There has been a lot of discussion of vaccines these past few days. For some reason, all the potential 2016 presidential candidates have been asked if they think that measles vaccines cause autism. For the record, they don’t. If vaccines caused autism, someone would have noticed it a very long time ago and there would be no question. But whatever.
The Republicans have not done a good job in responding to these questions. There is Chris Christie who comes off as, I don’t know, a total hypocrite when he says that parents ought to be able to do anything they want, after he quarantined a nurse for clearly political purposes. But even worse was Doctor Rand Paul. He thinks generally that vaccines are a good thing. But parents shouldn’t be forced to give them to there kids because, you know, freedom. Or rather slavery:
The mind boggles. Paul, of course, is very much an anti-choice guy. So apparently, once a child is born, the parents own it. But before birth, the state owns it. Or it is a full citizen that must be protected. But not against measles.
But the smart people at The Washington Free Beacon thought it a good idea to protect their conservative heroes. So they launched a shot across the bow, When Hillary and Obama Gave Credence to Anti-Vaccine Theories. Back in 2008, it seems, both Clinton and Obama equivocated regarding vaccines. During his race for the White House, Obama said, “We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.” At the same time, Clinton said the much less provocative, “I am committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines.”
And now they are both claiming the opposite. Obama recently said, “The science is, you know, pretty indisputable.” And Clinton tweeted:
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 3, 2015
And the conservative crowd goes wild!
But wait. There’s something different about these claims. Oh, I know: they are separated by seven years! I wonder if anything happened during those seven years that would move the thinking of a thoughtful person from “suspicious” to “indisputable”? Perhaps science? The suspicion about vaccines came from a 1998 Lancet article that linked autism to the MMR vaccine. In 2004, a major conflict of interest was discovered and most of the co-authors on the paper repudiated it. But it wasn’t until 2010 that the journal itself fully retracted it, calling it “utterly false.”
This is the way that science works. Or at least, it is the way that science is supposed to work. Obama and Clinton were acting responsibly based upon the facts that they knew. That’s not true of Chris Christie and Rand Paul. Science my change but their their opinions never will because their opinions were never based on science in the first place.
But there is something more. Remember Free Beacon quoted Obama as saying, “We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it”? Well, that’s a selective quote. Via PolitiFact, here is the full quote:
Who would have guessed that Obama would actually have been making a nuanced point like that? It is so unlike him! Clearly, the charlatans at The Washington Free Beacon knew exactly what they were doing. It must be hard to be a conservative. You have to spend all that time apologizing for evil idiots and pretending that your enemies are different than they are.