A Sequel We Could Have Done Without: The Return of the Dingell

OpenMarket’s consulting physician, Dr. Henry I. Miller of the Hoover Institution, has some strong words (and unfortunate predictions) about what we can expect from the new committee leadership in Congress:

Much of American commerce that depends on innovative science and technology will likely suffer in the new regime — biotechnology, nanotechnology, and pharmaceutical R&D, to name just a few sectors. Many senior Democratic members of Congress and their staffs are relentlessly anti-science, anti-technology, and anti-business. Worst of all, they’re uneducable. They remind me of the reputation of France’s King Charles II, about whom it was said that he never learned anything and never forgot anything.

Ouch. Now, maybe you’ll say Henry is being a little too tough on these folks, but, sadly, he’s got history on his side:

From my days as an official at the FDA during the ’80s and early ’90s, when the Democrats were in the congressional majority, I recall the incessant, uninformed, and highly politicized meddling by prominent members of Congress. They did incalculable damage to science and technology. And now they’re back.


Most deplorable of all was [Rep. John] Dingell’s McCarthy-esque practice of unfairly impugning individuals during punitive hearings. He managed to bring down two eminent university heads — David Baltimore of Rockefeller University and Donald Kennedy of Stanford — who, although eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, lost their presidencies due to his charges.

Dingell will return as the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will again put him in charge of oversight over the FDA. An octogenarian now, he has lost much of his vigor and mental acuity but none of his malice.

Dingell, of course, may be the least of our fears. Rep. Henry Waxman, for example, has made no secret of his plans to investigate everyone and everything under the sun (that he disagrees with) from his new perch as chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.