Presidential Candidate Tommy Thompson Vows to End Breast Cancer by 2015
Visit the Web site of Republican Presidential candidate Tommy Thompson, and you’ll see this headline: “Thompson Pledges End to Breast Cancer During His Presidency.”
O…K… Talk about your overblown campaign promises, this one is a real whopper. Hey, whoever writes content for www.tommy2008.com, get a clue: don’t post headlines your candidate can’t back up, especially when they offer very false hope to women dying of breast cancer.
After that first attention-grabbing outburst, the truth behind the headlines emerges. Thompson, a past governor of Wisconsin and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, has pledged to “deploy the vast resources of the United States toward the goal of ending breast cancer by 2015.”
“We'll start with breast cancer and then attack every major cancer one after the other. There's no candidate in either party more prepared and more motivated to lead this effort than me,” Thompson says, in a press release posted on his site. “Here's the bottom line: The only way to expedite the cures to these diseases that end so many lives is for the President of the United States to set a goal and motivate our government and private companies to reach it. We can afford to do it and it’s the right thing to do,” he concluded.
Well, that’s more like it. OF COURSE we all want to find a cure for cancer. And it would be nice for it to be a long-term national goal, much as President John F. Kennedy pledged we’d put a man on the moon, or President Lyndon Johnson asked us to join him in the War on Poverty. Heck, even First Lady Nancy Reagan, with her Just Say No campaign, was into setting a national agenda. But here’s the big difference between Thompson’s goal and Kennedy’s, or Johnson’s, or even Nancy’s: there’s no guarantee that throwing vast sums of money at cancer research will provide a cure. Nearly doubling the National Institutes of Health’s budget from $30 billion to $56 billion, as Thompson proposes, may result in more scientists doing more research, but guess what? In the end, there may be no cure for cancer. Ever. It’s that simple.
I believe Thompson’s goal is laudable. And the inspiration is personal: his wife, daughter, and mother-in-law have all suffered from breast cancer. But sending a national message that you’ll end breast cancer by 2015? That smacks of smoke and mirrors. Pledge to increase research funding (though, with record national deficits, who knows where that money will come from?) Pledge to put together a top-notch team to organize a worldwide effort. But don’t pledge a cure, Tommy. Because that’s a promise you just can’t keep.