Several of my fellow skeptical bloggers have been getting worked up about the possibility – rumors really – that Robert F. Kennedy Junior might be chosen by Obama as the next head of the EPA. It’s encouraging to note that most science bloggers who have commented, realize it would be a really bad move to appoint such an anti-vaccine crank with so little understanding of science, to this position. Read what Orac has to say about Robert F. Kennedy Junior if you don’t know the details. In summary, RFK somehow got it into his head that autism is caused by Thimerosal in vaccines. To help confirm this idea, he read the transcripts of a medical conference that was set up to discuss any possible link, to see if he could find evidence of a cover up. Unsurprisingly, he found the confirmation and the evidence of a conspiracy he was looking for. But only by torturing the minutes of the meeting so the attendees appeared to be saying the exact opposite of what they did, actually, say. I read the detailed minutes myself and wrote two posts on RFK’s conspiracy mongering and RFK’s quote mining. You can see from all this that Kennedy first made up his mind about vaccines and then forced the evidence to match his previously made up position. And haven’t we had enough of that over the previous eight years? Yes, RFK would be a terrible choice.
I have to say though, I’m a lot more relaxed about this than most of the other skeptical bloggers. Not because I don’t think RFK would be a terrible choice, but because I don’t actually see Obama picking RFK for this. The reason is that Obama’s decision making seems to be characterized by careful thought and especially by comprehensive vetting of appointees. I just don’t see him making such a mistake. And that is especially so when you read Obama’s Statement in Support of World Autism Awareness Day and Awareness Month, where he states among other things, “while the causes of autism remain a mystery…”. Not to Kennedy. He knows it’s the vaccines.
And with RFK it’s not just anti-vaccine crankery. See this video where RFK talks favorably of Hugo Chavez and the nationalization of oil companies in Venezuela. While I don’t want to get into the argument about whether that is good or bad, you have to admit the nationalization of oil companies is actually socialism, unlike the lame “socialist” things Obama was charged with during the campaign. Just the thought of playing that tape and having to justify those comments at the congressional hearings ought to be enough for Obama’s team to rule out RFK. He really doesn’t want to start all that again.
And the rumors of an RFK appointment don’t even seem that credible. For example see this article that doesn’t even mention the word “Kennedy”. Reports hyping up RFK’s chances are from the likes of The Huffington Post. And we know how reliable they are when the subject has anything to do with vaccines.
So while it’s good to get the word out, again, about RFK’s total unsuitability for such a post, I actually doubt that he’s even on Obama’s shortlist. If I’m wrong, then clearly my opinion of Obama would take a very early nosedive, but I don’t think I’m ready to pre-criticize one of his future decisions just yet.