On Friday, Vivek Murthy – the United States Surgeon General – announced that he was being replaced only two years after being confirmed for his position during the Obama administration. While many on the right are certainly glad when any Obama appointed official is removed and replaced, the dismissal of Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General is a particular victory for the NRA and other gun rights advocates.
— Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal) April 22, 2017
As noted by ABC News, the outgoing Surgeon General suggested in a post on Facebook that he was “blessed to have an extraordinary team of dedicated public servants who became my colleagues and friends.” He further pointed with pride to the considerable work his department had done to fight drug, tobacco and alcohol addiction throughout the country. He went on to say:
“Thank you, America, for the privilege of a lifetime. I have been truly humbled and honored to serve as your Surgeon General.”
Murthy also frequently voiced his views on the necessity for stronger gun control legislation and pointed out the inherent health hazard that guns pose to Americans, noting that thousands of Americans are killed every year by gunfire. Further, he made it clear that he wanted the United States to embrace improved gun training and a ban on assault weapons.
Trump administration fired America's "top doctor" — the surgeon general — and replaced him with a nurse https://t.co/HBnryxXlHS
— Julia Belluz (@juliaoftoronto) April 22, 2017
Such positions and sentiments, of course, did not endear him to gun rights advocates or the National Rifle Association. In fact, he was only confirmed after a very long and difficult process in which he was vehemently opposed by these groups because of the threat they felt he posed to gun ownership in the United States.
Murthy also insisted that drug addiction – and addictions in general – have to be viewed as a disease, not simply as a character flaw. As he put it:
“We will only be successful in addressing addiction — and other illnesses — when we recognize the humanity within each of us. People are more than their disease. All of us are more than our worst mistakes. We must ensure our nation always reflects a fundamental value: every life matters.”
Murthy will be replaced temporarily by current deputy Surgeon General, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams. Trent-Adams will be the first nurse to ever hold the position of Surgeon General in the United States.
As noted by Forbes, Murthy suggested he was, of course, disappointed to have served such a short-term in his office, noting that:
“While I had hoped to do more to help our nation tackle its biggest health challenges, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have served.”
Vivek Murthy joins a long line of Obama appointees who have either been asked to resign or dismissed outright over the last few months. Of course, most political appointees from one administration are replaced by the incoming administration, but the Trump approach to such replacements has been much more abrupt and less professional.
In addition, many of those individuals who have been forced out by the Trump administration are ones who normally carry over from one administration to the next. For instance, the wholesale dismissal of the entire upper echelon of the State Department left that agency virtually bereft of any experienced diplomats and bureaucrats.
Similarly, the dismissal of Sally Yates as acting Attorney General early on during the Trump/Russia scandal reminded many of the Saturday night massacre carried out by the Nixon administration during Watergate.
The positions Vivek Murthy took as Surgeon General certainly made him anathema to the vast majority of Republicans, and particularly to those on the far right. Of course, they are assuming that his current temporary replacement will offer up very different policies and positions, but this point has yet to be clarified.
[Featured Image by Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images]