Weekly Wrap: MJ, Pudgy Top Doc Pick, Skip Gates and Coburn's Arma(pecca)dillos
Updated, 6:05 p.m., with White House clarification on the Prof. Gates incident...
Fattism Alert: A mini-media firestorm began bubbling this week over President Obama's plus-sized choice for surgeon general, Dr. Regina Benjamin.
Even the former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell, piled on, telling ABC News that Benjamin's chubbiness "tends to undermine her credibility.... I do think at a time when a lot of public health concern is about the national epidemic of obesity, having a surgeon general who is noticeably overweight raises questions in people's minds."
Conservatives are using Benjamin's size against her. Newt Gingrich's former spinmeister, Rich Galen, writes on his tending-toward-snarky blog, Mullings:
I am willing to accept the notion that the Surgeon General can be the poster-woman for a national effort to lose weight. That would be swell. But, if we accept that theory, then Obama should appoint:
- a junkie as Drug Czar,
- a person whose license has been suspended as Secretary of Transportation,
- a deserter as Secretary of Defense,
- a slum lord heading HUD and,
- Bernie Madoff as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
I was going to add 'tax cheats in the U.S. Treasury' but Obama has already done that.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services released a statement this week defending Benjamin as a "highly qualified physician" and "role model for all of us."
Skip Gates Watch: Conservatives are beginning to come down hard on President Obama for his defense of Harvard Professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr., who was arrested in his own home in Cambridge, Mass., this week.
Apparent 2012 presidential hopeful Gingrich, appearing on C-SPAN this week, said Obama "should have said nothing" about the incident. "He admitted himself he didn't know the facts and then hey went on to give us a general comment."
In his loquacious, professorial way, Gingrich lectured the president for using poor judgment. He said Obama should "just relax" and be "humble enough and calm enough to admit this is just one he blew."
Update: President Obama expressed regret Friday for his choice of words in suggesting that police officers in Cambridge, Mass., had "acted stupidly" in arresting the black Harvard professor.
Making an impromptu appearance in the White House briefing room to quell criticism, Obama said he called Sgt. James Crowley, the white officer who arrested Gates, to express regret. "I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up, I wanted to make clear that in my choice of words, I think, I unfortunately, I think, gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically," Obama told reporters. "I could have calibrated those words differently, and I told this to Sergeant Crowley."
Later Friday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to say whether the president had actually apologized to Crowley. But he said Obama agreed to have a beer with him.
When pressed on whether Obama apologized, Gibbs said the president called Sgt. Crowley "to let him know that that word choice was not one that he thought was probably, in hindsight, the best choice."
Tom Coburn's Arma(pecca)dillos: Hard to know if there was double entendre in Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-Okla.) bizarre riff on the Senate floor Thursday evening about an armadillo's lust of marshmallows:
"In Oklahoma, I trap armadillos.... All you've got to do is put a trap cage and you'll catch those suckers. That's what Washington is doing to America's liberty. We bite the first bite off the marshmallow. You say, 'That tastes good.'...
"And then we take another little bite of the marshmallow, or the next one.... Pretty soon, that armadillo fellow, he's in my cage. I got him.
"And the reason I got him is he kept thinking he could get something for nothing. He kept thinking 'man, that's a sweet marshmallow.'"
The fate of the marshallow-crazed armadillo? "One of two things," Coburn explained in the speech on the Senate floor. "I either put 'em in the back of my pickup and take 10 or 15 miles away from my property or I shoot 'em.''
Michael Jackson Resolution Watch: Another week, no MJ resolution. The House considered resolutions honoring the late baseball announcer Harry Kalas, congratulating the Los Angeles Lakers, hailing the people of Lithuania, and touting Chicago as the next Olympic city while Jackson continued to get short shrift.
The resolution sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) memorializing MJ as an "American hero and musical legend" lay dormant, as it may well forever. It was in Jackson Lee's district in Houston this week where the offices of Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, were raided by DEA agents.
Oddly, Jackson Lee had a staff member on location at the medical clinic during the raid. According to the Los Angeles Times, Jackson Lee's office said the aide was there "as a concerned community representative."
Mary Ann Akers
July 24, 2009; 1:13 PM ET
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