Dr. John Barrasso, the new Republican senator from Wyoming, is allegedly a man of science. He's described in bios as "a long-time Casper orthopedic surgeon and a member of the Senate Rural Health Caucus." He was appointed to the Senate by Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (Democrat) earlier this year to replace Sen. Craig Thomas, who died after a bout with leukemia.
As a Democrat, I have no use for Dr. Barrasso practicing law-making in the U.S. Senate. I also wouldn’t let him operate on my knees, but he probably doesn’t have time for that anymore. There’s a built-in problem with a man of science – in this case a physician – being a Republican in the 21st century. The Republicans are beholden to the right-wing fundamentalist wing of their party. Since the fundies don’t believe in science, much of the legislation Barrasso must champion is anti-science and irrational.
Barrasso, voting in lockstep with fellow Republicans (including our other senator, Mike Enzi) voted against the SCHIP legislation that funds children’s health care. Ironically, he testified for the very same program when he was in the Wyoming Legislature. But now, as one of the minority of senators charged by Bush & Cheney to hold back the rising tide of health care legislation, he voted against it.
The Good Doctor has been very busy of late with his no votes. On Thursday, he voted against legislation that would help states prosecute attacks on homosexuals. The legislation, which the Senate voted to attach to a defense bill, is named for Matthew Shepard, a gay college freshman who was beaten into a coma in 1998 in Laramie. He died a few days later. Sen. Barrasso lived in Casper at the time of this tragedy. Casper was Matthew Shepard’s hometown. In the state legislature, Barrasso championed a law that would have made it illegal to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, and a "fetal homicide" bill that would have made the act of killing a pregnant mother and her fetus a double homicide. The Governor saw the bill as a stealth attempt to define to fetus as a person, thus paving the way for Republican anti-abortion legislation. He vetoed it.
So history repeats itself in the U.S. Senate. Barrasso, allegedly a rational man of science, dances to the tunes that the right-wing fundies play for him. He votes against saving lives by ending the Iraq War. He votes against providing more time at home for military personnel. He’s an advocate of the death penalty. During Labor Day weekend, the Senator co-hosted the MDA Telethon from a Casper TV studio. He’s very polished in front of the camera, as he used to televise health tips when he lived in the state. But it was a delicious irony to see this anti-science conservative raising funds for a disease that could be solved by more stem-cell research.
If I remember correctly, physicians are admonished "to do no harm." I’d like to know how Sen. Barrasso squares his votes against children’s health care with his oath as a doctor. Maybe he could ask ex-Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, another physician whose future was tied to the fundamentalist agenda. He looked like a buffoon in the Terry Schiavo case (She’s alive! I’m a doctor and I can tell!). He’s out of the Senate and back in medicine. He used to be mentioned as a possible 2008 presidential candidate. But no more. Just another Republican I wouldn’t have operate on me.