Nanny State

Has Rick Perry Neutralized the Gardasil Controversy?


Slate's Dave Weigel notes that Texas Gov. Rick Perry's position on his 2007 executive order mandating vaccination of 10-to-12-old girls against HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer, has softened since his 2010 re-election campaign. Last year, facing primary challengers who hammered him on the issue, Perry stood his ground, saying the executive order was the right thing to do. At Monday's presidential debate, by contrast, Perry was contrite:

Wolf Blitzer: Governor Perry, as you well know, you signed an executive order requiring little girls 11 and 12-year-old girls to get a vaccine to deal with a sexually transmitted disease that could lead to cervical cancer. Was that a mistake?

Rick Perry: It was. And indeed, if I had it to do over again, I would have done it differently. I would have gone to the legislature, worked with them. But what was driving me was, obviously, making a difference about young people's lives.

Cervical cancer is a horrible way to die. And I happen to think that what we were trying to do was to clearly send a message that we're going to give moms and dads the opportunity to make that decision with parental opt-out.

Parental rights are very important in state of Texas. We do it on a long list of vaccines that are made, but on that particular issue, I will tell you that I made a mistake by not going to the legislature first. 

As Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, noted, Perry still did not disavow the policy of requiring parents to opt out of the vaccination rather than opt in:

I think we need to hear what Governor Perry's saying. He's saying that his policy was right. He believes that what he did was right. He thinks he went about it the wrong way. 

I believe your policy is wrong….Ladies and gentlemen, why do we inoculate people with vaccines in public schools? Because we're afraid of those diseases being communicable between people at school. And therefore, to protect the rest of the people at school, we have vaccinations to protect those children. 

Unless Texas has a very progressive way of communicating diseases in their school by way of their curriculum, then there is no government purpose served for having little girls inoculated at the force and compulsion of the government. This is big government run amok. It is bad policy, and it should not have been done. 

God help me, but I agree with Santorum. The issue here is similar to the one raised by mandatory vaccination of children against hepatitis B, which can be transmitted through sex or needle sharing but does not spread through casual contact and does not pose a threat to the general public. One needn't accept any of the urban legends about the hazards of vaccines to believe this sort of decision should be left to parents.

Yet Weigel argues that Perry has "smoothed over the social-conservative panic":

Before launching his campaign he met with influential movement leaders, answering their questions with the same two-step he gave in Tampa: I was mostly right, but I shouldn't have made the vaccine mandatory. That's significantly softer than his original answer to questions like this.

Weigel says the perception that Perry's executive order was a favor to Merck, which makes the anti-HPV vaccine Gardasil, remains a threat. The company employed Mark Toomey, Perry's former chief of staff, as a lobbyist, and its political action committee has donated $29,500 to his election campaigns in the last 10 years (almost six times the $5,000 Perry claimed during the debate). The coziness with Merck fits a broader portrait of Perry as a crony capitalist that belies his image as a free-market conservative.


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  1. Only if by “neutralized” you mean “doomed his chances of winning the nomination so the controversy is moot”.

  2. The best part was when Perry told Bachmann he was offended if she thought five thousand bucks was enough to buy him off, begging the question of how much it would take.

    1. perry seemed to hesitate mid-answer perhaps realizing that he just begged that question of how much would it take

    2. Everybody has a price.

      1. you are both missing the point. ALL politicians do favors for big donors. The issue is the Governor REQUIRING that all girls be subjected to a vaccine because he said so. Social engineering is no prettier from Repubs than it is from Dems.

    3. Bachmann missed her chance to torch Perry.

    4. It is disturbing that he couldn’t marshall his mental resources to say something along the lines of, “My support can’t be bought.”

      And I’m disappointed Bachmann didn’t come back with a “…at this point we’re just haggling over the price” rejoinder.

  3. This post contains content from Dave Weigel, who sometimes says semi-liberalish things, thereby invalidating all of his reporting, as well as any post that quotes him, and perhaps that post’s author as well.

    1. Agreed.

  4. What the hell is an “opt-in” system anyway? Like the way I opt-in for eating a peanut-butter sandwich for lunch? How I opt-in for getting glasses if my eyesight is bad?

    How ’bout, if parents want to opt their child in for an HPV vaccine, they opt their happy asses to the doctor on their own? What does the state of Texas have to do with any of it?

  5. Not sure what Rick Santorum is bitching about with respect to big government. The reason his ilk doesn’t like vaccinating preteens against STDs is because they think it’s license for them to have premarital sex. And, of course, the threat of STDs is supposed to be a deterrent against that. Santorum obviously thinks government should be in the business of dictating the sex lives of young people according to what he thinks his imaginary friend in the sky thinks is appropriate.

    1. Rick Santorum favors big government too often, but his statement here is perfectly correct. I wish it were extended to other mandatory government programs and actions.

      I don’t see Santorum making it illegal for parents to choose to get the vaccination. How is it “dictating the sex lives of young people” when you simply don’t make the vaccine mandatory?

      Tony and his false dichotomies. Clearly the only choice is between mandating something and banning it.

      Why, oh, why must Tony be so anti-choice?

      1. Santorum made the exact right call. I don’t understand why Bachman had to go all Jenny McCarthy and make such a fool of herself. All she had to do was say what Santorum said.

        1. She’s a former tax collector who claims to be a friend of the people…

          If one assumes she’s being truthful, her ability to rationally integrate evidence into her world view is pretty whacked as it would require Orwellian levels of cognitive dissonance.

        2. because she and other women believe the mommy card carries weight. It does not. It is pandering, just like playing the race card.

          1. Maybe so. But she killed her campaign there.

  6. Is there a libertarian position on mandatory vaccinations? I believe in some cases they may very well be warranted, but this one does seem iffy.

    1. As Jacob notes, bizarrely, Santorum gave the most logically consistent and thoughtful libertarian response that also still respects science and doesn’t get into anti-vaccine hysteria.

      It is reasonable to require vaccinations for kids who are attending public school for diseases spread by the very fact of their attendance. There are good arguments for not making public school attendance mandatory, but vaccination is a reasonable and logical condition to put on attendance.

      There are reasonable cases for mandatory vaccinations in general of easily communicable diseases, particularly if the only alternative is to highly restrict the liberty of people who choose not to get them.

      The less easily communicable the disease, the worse the case.

      It’s true that mandatory vaccination of children against hepatitis B, for whatever reason, seems to be less of a hot button issue, and people are free (like Josh Barro) to darkly speculate about what that means. Logically, they are the same, as Jacob points, and should have the same response.

      1. One rationale for mandating hepatitis B vaccinations for infants is that a significant proportion of Hep B cases are maternally transmitted, and a child is much more likely than an adult to be unable to clear the virus (~30% of cases become chronic in children, vs ~1% if you contract it as an adult, IIRC) and will thus be more susceptible to the sequelae of the virus (cirrhosis, liver cancer) down the line.

        I’m not sure how valid this rationale is for routine infant vaccination in a country with low HBV seroprevalence, like the US, but it is a frequently stated reason.

  7. Once Santorum inevitably exits the race, there better be another salty ham tears photo/thread. That is like Mecca for Reasonoids.

  8. Thread jack:

    Has this been brought to anyone’s attention?!/search/#attackwatch

    1. I thought is was whine watch.

  9. Fuck, I hate politicians.

  10. Ladies and gentlemen, why do we inoculate people with vaccines in public schools? Because we’re afraid of those diseases being communicable between people at school.

    This is factually false. We vaccinated school children against small pox because it is extremely communicable, for example. The benefit to the general public (not just children at school) of smallpox-immune children is huge. The same can be said of many other communicable diseases for which we vaccinate. The reason these vaccines were administered at schools is because it was extremely convenient and cost effective. Breaking the infection cycle amongst kids who spend their days closely packed together is simply the smartest way to fight those diseases.

    I completely disagree with Santorum’s premise; he is a boob as usual.

    1. Not only is he wrong on that, he is wrong on this as well: “Unless Texas has a very progressive way of communicating diseases in their school by way of their curriculum”

      For the past 10 years (or more?) Texas has been in the highest top 5 in rates of teen pregnancy in the nation, sometimes 5th, 4th, or 3rd. So yes, Texas does indeed have a very progressive way of communicating disease.

      He’s also wrong saying only girls are getting vaccinated.

      Finally, the idea that teens don’t have sex. Yeah, this is not about respecting parents rights, this is about punishing girls who have sex.

      1. Hey Pluto! You’re Dad is a lefty douchebag!

  11. God help me, but I agree with Santorum…

    “Lucifer? Yeah, whats up, its me. Yes, I know we dont talk much anymore… yes, yes, cut me some slack already. Look, we need to add another layer down there. No, you’re not going to need a lot of room. No, its not Justin Bieber. Just… look, remember Santorum? Yeah, I know, tell me about it. No its not him. Someone who *agrees* with him. No I’m not kidding. Work something up, let me know what you have in mind. Perpetually torn to shreads by wolves? Hmmm. *Fire-breathing* Wolves? I like where you’re going. Oooh, *while* the Black Eyed Peas play an endless halftime show?? I got to hand it to you…you still have the touch buddy. Yeah, get it ready, I’ll have the guy down there momentarily…”

    1. after expulsion, one cannot use lucifer which was the heavenly name.

      1. Sorry bub, the rule’s is for you fools.

        Me and Lucy try and still keep it tight.

        1. its ur world boss

  12. Threadjack III

    Sarah Palin is a coke-head with a ‘fetish’ for black dudes.…..rtner.html

    1. That is the loon who moved in next door to her. I doubt any of it is true.

      1. I don’t know. I mean, who hasn’t snorted coke off an oil drum?

        1. Maybe she did. The President admits to doing a lot of blow back in the day. And God knows she isn’t the first politician to run around on their spouse. I don’t see where the accusations are that big of a deal.

          1. They matter because of the Double Standard?.
            You know – It’s OK for Big O to do coke, but bad if it’s Palin or Bush Jr.
            It’s OK for Clinton to get his dick sucked on the job by an intern, but if a Republican cheats it’s a big fat hairy deal.
            Personally I couldn’t give a shit. Palin and her boobs have no chance of getting elected anyway.

            1. She has a better chance than people want to admit. And the double standard isn’t what it used to be.

              1. There’s nothing to admit. Her political career is over. Done.
                She stuck the proverbial fork in it when she did that reality show.
                The only people who care are middle aged men who like her jiggly bits. The same people who like that smiling twit from Minnasoter.

                1. The reality show was brilliant. It was nothing but a giant campaign commercial for her. I am appalled by reality shows to. But I can’t deny that it was very effective.

                  1. The show killed her career. It showed her to be anything but average – trotting around in a converted bus and flying in a chartered plane.
                    Come on.
                    You just like her jiggly bits. Admit it.

                    1. Not everyone thinks like you and I. I am telling you, it did anything but kill her career.

                    2. Jiggly bits!

                    3. Mmmmmm…..jiggly bits….*drool*

                    4. I like her jiggly bits. If it’s ok for people to vote for Obama to assuage thier white guilt, why can’t I vote for her because she’s hot?

                    5. its a good point. imagine how she’d unnerve arab leaders…like condi!

    2. I’m starting to think that there’s an unofficial rule at the Daily Mail that every web page must contain at least one picture of Christina Hendricks in a low-cut dress.

      1. You see the pictures of Hendrix in the Daily Mail of her in her bathing suit and not made up and your realize she is pretty big. She is borderline cow territory. They really poor her into those dresses on Mad Men and choose stuff that hides a lot of flaws. Her body, huge boobs and all, isn’t really that great.

      2. Some rules make a lot of sense.

    3. So the author moved next door to the Palins. He’d spend his mornings perving around the Palin home, and in the afternoons, after getting adequately aroused, he watched hours on end of Lisa Ann porn.

  13. Santorum is mostly right, although wayne points out above one reason he is wrong. Another reason he is wrong is, of course, because it should be an opt-in on the part of the girls, not their parents, especially when the disease can be sexually transmitted and the vaccination isn’t happening until an age of relative reason.

    But the problem is we all know the real reason why Santorum and Bachmann keep making a big deal out of this, and it’s not because they think mandatory vaccination is wrong. If that were the reason, they wouldn’t have to keep repeating “SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED” and “LITTLE GIRLS” every five minutes. It’s downright insulting; the implication is that we’re vaccinating kids against the equivalent of AIDS when in reality 75% to 80% of sexually active Americans will contract HPV at some point in their lives, including about a quarter of 15- to 19-year-olds (according to Wikipedia).

    Santorum may give the right libertarian answer (minus the approval of public schooling), but the SoCon stink is still there. And for people in my generation, especially women, it doesn’t matter how well you mesh with libertarianism if that is your problem. This is what we know Republicans as, and we don’t trust them, and we find it despicable even when it aligns with what’s right. Obviously I know lots of you disagree, just talking about the political reality here.

    1. And for people in my generation, especially women, it doesn’t matter how well you mesh with libertarianism if that is your problem.

      Then you need to get the fuck over it. If someone meshes with libertarianism, then they mesh with libertariainism. Its your fucking problem, not Santorum’s.

      [shudders for agreeing with Santorum – has no fear of fear breathing wolves]

      1. But meshing with libertarianism is far from being libertarian. We both know way too much about Santorum to think he’s anything but a social conservative. Getting the libertarian answer on one issue means almost nothing. The point is, he might have had a good line in the debate and decided on the right response for this, but do you actually think he did it based on the right first principles? I sure don’t.

      2. 80% and past performance, robc.

        Santorum can get up there and read straight off Cato position papers in the debates. I still wouldn’t vote for his pasty ass because I don’t believe he’s serious. I’d think he was playing us to get the vote, unless he’s spent the past couple of years doing something meaningful.

        Also, if a guy is consistent with our principles for once in his public career, that’s not enough to compensate for the rest of it. Is he an 80% candidate or a 5% candidate? In Santorum’s case, everything I know about the guy points towards the 5% number.

        If Santorum wants us to vote for him, it very much is his problem.

        1. I dont care about the rest of his performance ON THIS ONE ISSUE. He is right. End of story.

          No, I wouldnt vote for him. But I would ally with him on this one issue. Just like I would ally with Barney Frank on internet gambling.

    2. they wouldn’t have to keep repeating “SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED” and “LITTLE GIRLS” every five minutes.

      Gotta stir up the emotions.

    3. keep repeating “SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED” and “LITTLE GIRLS” every five minutes.

      Bingo. I don’t know which is more disturbing, the fact that Santorum is apparently obsessed with sexually active pre-pubescent girls, or that Bachmann is.

    4. It’s downright insulting; the implication is that we’re vaccinating kids against the equivalent of AIDS when in reality 75% to 80% of sexually active Americans will contract HPV at some point in their lives, including about a quarter of 15- to 19-year-olds

      I think you went a bit overboard with the stats there. If it’s the equivalent of AIDS (ie, a death sentence within 10-15 years) and 75% of Americans will contract it, we’re looking at a friggin’ huge decrease in life expectancy. That requires more than a cite from WP.

  14. Refresh my memory. How much testing did Merck do with Gardasil on pre-teen girls? None, right?

    Some of us had concerns about that portion of it as well.

    1. reason i refused my girls vaccine. no testing on teens, only women in their late 20’s & early 30’s. i’ll say it again – use a damn condom !

      1. Condoms will not necessarily prevent HPV transmission, and I don’t mean that in the same way that they don’t protect 100% against pregnancy or HIV. It can be transmitted through contact with tissue not protected by a condom.

        1. Ever since they figured out SSRIs have different effects on adolescents than adults, I’m extremely leery of meds that haven’t been tested for the appropriate age group.

          1. Rhye’s syndrome FTL.

  15. In the commercials, everybody was yelling “I want to be one less!”

    Shouldn’t it have been “one fewer”?

    1. Ah, so the vaccine does cause retardation.

  16. God help me, but I agree with Santorum.

    That’s when I stopped reading.

  17. LITTLE GIRLZ!11111111!!!!!!!!!11111

    This is the stupidest fucking “controversy” in the republican joke of a primary, and thats saying something.

    And if Rick Perry is a “crony capitalist” he’s not particularly valuable to those trying to get crony favors. In fact he sucks at it. Go to Chicago or New Jersey or DC if you want to see some world class crony capitalism in action.

    Besides, a prerequisite for crony capitalism is that one nominally-private sector business is being favored over another for providing a similar product or service. If there were 50 vaginal vaccines available, and ole Ricky said “everybody MUST purchase only the Merck product, or disallowed the distribution of all competitors, THAT would be crony capitalism. As it is its far less crony capitalist than ANY acquisition of military equipment by the DOD. Of course TEAM RED jizzes at military spending/waste. Ooh yeah, MOAR $$$ for teh tr00ps!

    Palin-loving so-con dipshits bandy about “crony capitalism” with the same idiocy and ignorance as Obuttholites bandy about “racism”.

  18. I would’ve gone with “Neutered” in the title, but I’m a prick.

  19. I still don’t see how anyone is being forced to do anything if there if a fucking op-out povision.

    For example if the individual mandate had an op-out then it really wouldn’t be mandate would it?

    I for one think it’s right thing to do. Set the best course as automatic but give people an opt-out. You are seeing this in other stuff too. Like auto enroll in 401k’s etc

    I’ll repeat, as long as there’s an opt-out, I’m fine.

    1. You libertarian paternalist you!

      1. Yes, I’m a big fan of the nudge theory.

        For example, I’m totally ok with the government saying that people shouldn’t do drugs. I’m not ok at all with drugs being illega.

        1. But that’s a bad analogy. It’s more like, if you want to do any drugs, you have to fill out this form to opt-out of the drug laws.

          True, it would be nowhere near as bad as the current state of drug jurisprudence, but it’s not conducive to freedom either.

    2. Forcing someone to either fill out the opt out form or submit to the vaccination is a mandate. You’re not allowed to do nothing.

      1. I stand corrected, you are forcing someone to fill out a form. The horror.

        Still, that seems to be a minimal use of state powers to op-out. And at least for me, is a much better balance of state power than what is currently done for most thigngs. While also balancing the fact that many people are lazy and don’t take the necessary actions to protect themselves.

        This wouldn’t be such a big problem except we have a welfare state that isn’t going anywhere.

  20. Do none of these Jesus ladies understand that even if their little darlings intend to stay virgins until marriage, they can still be raped?

    1. Someone can inject you with smallpox virus against your will too — does that mean we should force everyone to be vaccinated against smallpox?

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