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Coburn Responds to Gerson

6:44 PM, May 14, 2008 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Over at Real Clear Politics, Tom Coburn responds to Michael Gerson's "contemptuous and factually loose" Washington Post column that smears the "Coburn seven" for not caring about AIDS victims enough:

Part of Gerson's moral outrage is focused on my controversial stance that AIDS treatment dollars be spent on treatment. I want to preserve PEPFAR's original formula that sends at least 55 percent of all dollars to AIDS treatment so widows and orphans and actual patients, not program officers and consultants, will be the primary beneficiaries of the program. This formula is made all the more important because the new authorization calls for a three-fold increase in funding from $15 billion over five years to $50 billion over five years. Moreover, this smart and well-designed policy, which Gerson once supported but now scorns, is a major reason why PEPFAR has been a Marshall Plan-like response, rather than a Katrina-like response, to the AIDS crisis in Africa.

In a review of Gerson's book, Matthew Continetti thoroughly diagnosed the problem with Gersonism:

In Heroic Conservatism, Gerson specifically targets "libertarian indifference to the poor." But this is a caricature. I know a few libertarians, and none of them are indifferent to poverty. They just think economic growth and self-reliance are more effective than the federal government at lifting families out of destitution. Thinking so does not make them unvirtuous people, and it doesn't strengthen public debate to suggest as much.

What makes Gerson's attacks all the more infuriating is that he has a double standard for fiscal conservatives and social liberals. See, for example, this Gerson column criticizing Obama's position on abortion. Gerson cites Obama's support for partial-birth abortion and opposition to a bill that would protect "born-alive" infants who survive attempted abortions. He calls Obama's position "extreme" but never attacks Obama's motivations. In fact, Obama can redeem himself by spending taxpayer money on programs to support adoption, contraception, etc. (Never mind that Obama favors taxpayer funding of abortion, which would increase the abortion rate far beyond what these programs could do to lower it.)

Like the bizarre allegation of "libertarian indifference to the poor," Gerson accuses Coburn of being "indifferent to human suffering." Surely he isn't, and it doesn't strengthen public debate to suggest as much.