Michele Bachmann: Accidental Kamikaze

I’ve been leaning towards Rick Perry for a few weeks with Michele Bachmann as my second choice if he implodes. My first preference didn’t change last night but my second place choice did.


Last night Michele Bachmann lost my support.

She not only lost it for consideration as a presidential nominee, she lost it period. Full stop. In my view she beclowned herself beyond redemption and the sooner she disappears from the national stage the better.

For reasons that seem to have more to do with being behind Ron Paul in the polls and trying to scab some of the Paul supporters than any policy reason she made an unhinged attack on Perry on what should be a non-issue: his never-implemented executive order making mandatory a vaccine to protect women against a virus known to cause cervical cancer. What is worse she insisted that a fringe position is, in fact, a touchstone of conservatism.

From the transcript

 BACHMANN: I’m a mom. And I’m a mom of three children. And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. It’s a violation of a liberty interest.

That’s — little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don’t get a mulligan. They don’t get a do- over. The parents don’t get a do-over. That’s why I fought so hard in Washington, D.C., against President Obama and Obamacare.

President Obama in a stunning, shocking level of power now just recently told all private insurance companies, you must offer the morning-after abortion pill, because I said so. And it must be free of charge. That same level coming through executive orders and through government dictates is wrong. And that’s why again we have to have someone who is absolutely committed to the repeal of Obamacare and I am. I won’t rest until it’s appealed.


She followed up with Greta van Susteren (skip to 1:58) in her post debate interview by saying

 The problem is, it comes with some very significant consequences. There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine. There are very dangerous consequences. It’s not good enough to take, quote, “a mulligan” where you want a do-over, not when you have little children’s lives at risk.

There are several threads of crazy running through this which leads one to believe that Bachmann, who if not anti-vaccine herself, was playing to the confusion the anti-vaccine fringe has managed to throw into what should be a fairly straightforward public policy debate.

As Ben Domenech points out in his indispensable The Transom:

But here’s the real reason this is a silly debate: the policy never went into effect. Not one girl was vaccinated under the policy. Not one shot was given. Demanding apologies from Perry for a policy that never went into effect gets tiresome after a while – particularly when Mitt Romney has never apologized for his namesake health care reforms, in effect in Massachusetts still today.

There is much to be criticized in the way Perry acted but no one received a “government injection,” whatever that may be. (For a more detailed take on what is wrong with the fringe anti-Gardasil argument visit Ace. It is worth the read.)


Let’s take the easy parts first. The HPV vaccine is safe. Some 26 million doses have been distributed in the United States and to date there have been about 1500 reports of serious incidents

A serious incident is defined as:

 Any VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) report that indicated hospitalization, permanent disability, life-threatening illness, congenital anomaly or death is classified as serious. As with all VAERS reports, serious events may or may not have been caused by the vaccine. [italics mine]

Despite what you may read there is not a single fatality associated with the vaccine. Again from the CDC:

In the 32 reports confirmed, there was no unusual pattern or clustering to the deaths that would suggest that they were caused by the vaccine and some reports indicated a cause of death unrelated to vaccination. [italics mine]

The claim that Gardasil caused mental retardation is specious and seems calculated to appeal to the vaccines-cause-autism fringe. The international patient advocacy group, the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partership, an organization with a vested interest in finding what causes Asperger Syndrome and autism, says:

 “Congresswoman Bachmann’s decision to spread fear of vaccines is dangerous and irresponsible. There is zero credible scientific evidence that vaccines cause mental retardation or autism. She should cease trying to foment fear in order to advance her political agenda.”

Regularly on these threads we get people advocating “abstinence” as a way of combating HPV. Because sex, you know, merits cancer. The idea that we should allow some diseases free rein because we don’t like how they are spread strikes me as silly. Evidence indicates personal abstinence doesn’t work in regards to preventing the spread of HPV. It isn’t sufficient that you be abstinent. Your spouse must also have been abstinent prior to marriage and any/all former sexual partners of your spouse must have been abstinent. In the United States, by age 50 at least 80% of women will be infected with HPV.


While Bachmann is right, there is no do-over for girls who may be injured by the vaccine, she seems a lot less concerned that there is also no do-over for women who die from cervical cancer that could have been prevented. In this case Bachmann’s policy preference is the avoidance of hypothetical risk rather than preventing a real disease that kills people. This type of fuzzy – or cynically opportunistic – thinking is not what we need.

The “liberty interest” argument is just as silly. Unless you’re going to argue that every mandatory vaccine – like fluoridated water — is an affront to some “liberty interest,” using this line of attack on a vaccination that was always subject to parental consent simply defines liberty down to an absence of any personal or parental responsibility.

This particular attack was an own-goal by Bachmann in every conceivable way. It plays into the anti-science meme with which the Left is trying to festoon conservatism. Her constant invocation of “little” and “innocent” children gives one flashbacks to Hillary Clinton and her tossing the “for the children” mantra about. It was a senseless attack on Perry that played well with a segment of the debate studio audience. But it is one that makes Bachmann look extreme to the majority of GOP voters while making Perry more acceptable to nearly everyone else. If her goal was to take the lead from Rick Perry, something she can’t do even by the addition of all of Ron Paul’s supporters, she chose a suboptimal tactic.

The real question for Bachmann is, “if you had a vaccine that you knew prevented your kids from developing cancer would you support it being available.” This is all Perry did. His executive order made a very expensive vaccine affordable while at the same time allowing anyone who wanted to opt out to do so. This isn’t progressivism or liberalism. It isn’t even “compassionate conservatism.” It is common sense. In fact, it is exactly what Sarah Palin did as governor of Alaska.








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