The Hightower Report
Choosing a Veep; and The Deliberate Deceit of Drug Ads
CHOOSING A VEEP
The nation's political pundits have spent weeks trying to tell us who will be the presidential nominees. From the Iowa caucuses forward, however, these Beltway prognosticators have been proven wrong again and again, but that is not stopping them from turning to the next major political question facing America: Who will be the vice presidential nominees?
Back in the 1930s, Vice President John Nance Garner described the office as "not worth a bucket of warm piss." Since then though, the No. 2 has shown an ability to be the de facto No. 1. For example, the present incumbent, Buckshot Cheney, not only chose himself to be the VP after serving as head of George W.'s search committee, but he even asserts that his office is not a part of the executive, legislative, or judicial branches – the vice presidency, he claims, is its own branch of government!
So pundits are on the prowl, trying to be the first to uncover the next Dan Quayle. There are obvious suggestions, such as Huckabee or McCain. But, does a McHuck ticket really sing? Probably not harmoniously. What about governors? The problem there is the "who test." Names like Pawlenty, Sanford, Crist, and Daniels have been run up the flagpole, only to be met with a chorus of "Who?" Or Sonny Perdue – is he the chicken guy or a governor?
On the Democratic side, if Obama is the presidential choice, I suggest a woman VP. No, not that woman – the one who has most impressed me is Michelle Obama – savvy, levelheaded, eloquent. "Obama-Obama in 08" has a lyrical ring to it.
Better yet, let's have a national lottery. Anyone who can comb their own hair pretty much meets the qualifications for VP. Besides, here's a chance for just a regular American to get a seat at the table. That's more likely to improve the national political dynamic than anyone the pundits can name.
THE DELIBERATE DECEIT OF DRUG ADS
Four out of five doctors recommend you not believe any advertising that makes claims based on the opinions of four out of five doctors. Or, for that matter, ads based on the opinions of even one well-known doctor.
Take Dr. Robert Jarvik, one of the pioneers in the development of the artificial heart. You might have seen him on TV throughout the past couple of years touting the healing power of Lipitor, a cholesterol drug made by Pfizer. The pharmaceutical giant has paid the doctor $1.3 million to shill for the drug. In one of the ads, Jarvik is depicted as an athletic rower, skimming in his boat across a mountain lake. The implication is that he is full of vigor, thanks to the cholesterol-clearing power of Lipitor. Jarvik's endorsement of the drug oozes credibility – until you realize a few facts not mentioned in this $250 million ad campaign. One, that's not Jarvik rowing so robustly across the lake. It's a stuntman posing as the doctor, who apparently doesn't row at all. Second, while Jarvik touts the cardiovascular benefits of Lipitor, he is not a cardiologist. And, even though he has a medical degree, he is not licensed to practice medicine. What he is is a marketable medical name, having been, as the ad put it, the "inventor of the artificial heart."
Oh, and that's the third hickey on Jarvik's testimonial. He is not the inventor. A large team at the University of Utah worked on the heart device back in the early 1980s, and they credit two others as deserving of the "inventor" honor – not Jarvik.
A top Pfizer executive says the corporation regrets that the ad led to any "misimpressions." But that's exactly what this direct-to-consumer ad campaign was designed to do. Drug companies spend some $5 billion a year on ads to "misimpress" us – and it's time to rein in their deceit.