That, and other news, in today's Roundup and Recap.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta hasn't officially been named surgeon general, but just the idea of him assuming the post inspired YouTube flashbacks to his past reports on fire eating and weight loss. Nothing, however, has drawn more attention that his 2007 exchange on "Larry King Live" with Michael Moore, in which Gupta challenged Moore's facts in "Sicko" and Moore charged back. It didn't help that Gupta already stumbled out of the gate with an initial error in a report that tried to deconstruct Moore's expose of the health system.
On Thursday, Rep. John Conyers, an advocate of a single-payer health system, added his name to the chorus of Gupta critics, questioning his qualifications and citing a Paul Krugman blog post in which the New York Times columnist wrote, "You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.
"…It’s sort of a minor-league version of the way people who pointed out in real time that Bush was misleading us into war are to this day considered less “serious” than people who waited until it was fashionable to reach that conclusion. And appointing Gupta now, although it’s a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way." (For his part, Krugman, unlike Conyers, says that he doesn't have a problem with Gupta's experience).
For his part, Moore is playing Gupta to the hilt, bannering Conyers' statements across his Website.
I see the Gupta criticism as more frustration on the left that they have been shut out in many appointments, and the idea of a single-payer healthcare system is not taken seriously. But Obama never favored a single-payer system throughout the campaign, so it will not be a surprise if he picks a person who thinks the same way. Moreover, there's a largely symbolic aspect to the Surgeon General jobs, which depends on getting the public's attention, first and foremost on issues like the epidemic of obesity. Think of the unlikely celebrity that C. Everett Koop became in the 1980s.
The bigger risk for Gupta is that he takes positions on public health issues during the Senate confirmation process, then it somehow falls short. That could then compromise any effort to return to his lucrative position on CNN — a great gig if you can get it. As much as Gupta has been a telegenic presence, and while many have suspicions about his views, in fact very little is known about where he stands on major issues. As Politico points out today, "Despite his high public profile, Gupta has, outside of a high-profile feud with Michael Moore, kept his politics and views on public policy to himself.
"Those who know and have worked with Gupta say he is predisposed to avoiding controversy thanks partly to his embrace of journalistic objectivity in his public life, but also because he is dispassionate and non-ideological by nature."
Recount Fallout: A majority of Minnesotans believe that Norm Coleman should concede his challenge for a Senate seat against Al Franken, according to a new SurveyUSA poll, but the protracted battle hasn't endeared either politico to the state's populace.
Live Earth, 2009: Kevin Wall, instrumental in staging Al Gore's 2007 Live Earth concerts, will produce the Green Inaugural Ball, with the former vice president as chair. The event will take place on Jan. 19 at the National Portrait Gallery.
And Another Producer: The Los Angeles Times' Tina Daunt reports that Don Mischer has been selected as the producer of Obama's inaugural events by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Today's Top Read: Paul Krugman says that Obama's stimulus plan falls short.
He writes, "Mr. Obama’s prescription doesn’t live up to his diagnosis. The economic plan he’s offering isn’t as strong as his language about the economic threat. In fact, it falls well short of what’s needed.
"Bear in mind just how big the U.S. economy is. Given sufficient demand for its output, America would produce more than $30 trillion worth of goods and services over the next two years. But with both consumer spending and business investment plunging, a huge gap is opening up between what the American economy can produce and what it’s able to sell.
"And the Obama plan is nowhere near big enough to fill this “output gap.”"