For the first time in I don’t know how long, the United States has a top doctor.
He is Vivek Murthy, who today was approved by the U.S. Senate to become the nation’s next surgeon general.
Despite his sparkling medical credentials and the work he has done to combat HIV/AIDS, senators had held up his nomination because he has spoken out against gun violence, calling it a public health issue.
Imagine that. A physician wanting to control gun violence because bullets injure and kill people.
His confirmation vote today was 51-43, with Republicans overwhelmingly opposing him because he is no friend of gun-rights advocates. Some Democrats joined their Republican colleagues in opposing Dr. Murthy.
One of them was Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who issued a statement opposing the doctor because, according to Manchin, his political views muddled his medical policy. I understand why Manchin joined other senators in opposing Murthy. It’s because he’s scared of gun-rights groups such as the National Rifle Association and the potent political power they possess.
That doesn’t make it right.
Vivek Murthy is perfectly qualified to serve as surgeon general. His views on gun control are well-known, but they do not infringe on his ability to help set medical policy or recommend measures to promote good health on behalf of the Obama administration.
Indeed, had their been a surgeon general on board during the recent Ebola mini-scare, there might not have been a need for the president to appoint an “Ebola czar” to coordinate the administration’s response to the disease’s arrival in the United States.
OK, so that task is done. We have a surgeon general. It’s good to know that at least 51 senators had the guts to vote in favor of hiring a chief medical officer to advise the nation on how to take better care of its health.