The Trouble With Gersonism, Again

It isn't necessarily the policy substance: Gerson may be right about PEPFAR and Tom Coburn completely wrong. It's the style of argument, which invariably casts opponents of any humanitarian program Gerson supports as un-Christian, uncharitable and inhumane - or as this particular op-ed puts it, "rigid, stingy and indifferent to human suffering." And it's the swift recourse, in a policy debate that seems to turn on a technical question - not whether we should fight AIDS in Africa but how the program should be designed - to low demagoguery like this:

How much do seven members of the U.S. Senate weigh?

Eyeing them -- Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, Jeff Sessions, Saxby Chambliss, David Vitter, Jim Bunning, Richard Burr -- I'd guess they probably come in at about 1,300 pounds. These are the Republicans who have signed a hold letter, preventing action on the reauthorization of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Now, how much do 3 million HIV/AIDS-infected people -- the treatment goal of a reauthorized PEPFAR -- weigh? This is a more difficult calculation. Adults with advanced forms of the disease can weigh about 60 pounds. Children with AIDS are like a shadow falling on a scale. Maintaining weight becomes difficult with vomiting and diarrhea, with tuberculosis and fungal infections, and with cancers such as Kaposi's sarcoma and lymphoma.

Even so, you'd think that a few million of these wasting bodies would weigh more on the moral balance than seven senators. But so far, you'd be wrong.



This is rhetoric better suited to Michael Moore than to a columnist who wants conservatives to take him seriously, rather than just tuning him out.