Toto, I Have A Feeling We're Not In Kansas Anymore

[ Posted Tuesday, November 30th, 2021 – 16:37 UTC ]

Nope -- we're definitely not in Kansas anymore. We're not even where we're supposed to be, which is Pennsylvania. We may be in New Jersey; it's not immediately clear (which brings up a rather ironic twist on "There's no place like home," I suppose, since we're not really sure where his home actually is right now...). But today the following news appeared from some fantastical locale or another:

Mehmet Oz, who rose to fame as "Dr. Oz" on The Oprah Winfrey Show, said Tuesday he is launching a Republican campaign for Senate in Pennsylvania, in a contest that is seen as a critical race for the GOP if the party wants to regain control of the chamber in 2022.

. . .

Oz is a cardiothoracic surgeon and television personality who gained prominence in the 2000s for his regular appearances with Oprah Winfrey, who called him "America's doctor." On Winfrey's talk show and later as host of his own show, Oz dispensed health and wellness advice, especially "miracle" diet products -- a lot of which was criticized for being junk science.

In 2014, a British Medical Journal study found that half of Oz's medical advice was baseless or wrong. The same year, Oz was grilled in Congress for promoting "miraculous" weight-loss programs that were shams, though Oz claimed they were safe and effective. In 2015, 10 of Oz's colleagues called for him to be dismissed from Columbia University's medical school for having "repeatedly shown disdain for science and evidence-based medicine" and "promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain."

Oz has come under further scrutiny during the coronavirus pandemic, when he touted questionable treatments for COVID-19, despite not specializing in infectious disease. He initially suggested hydroxychloroquine as a possible COVID-19 cure on Fox News, before changing his mind. He also faced backlash for suggesting last April -- also on Fox News -- that reopening schools "may only cost us 2 to 3 percent in terms of total mortality," which was "a trade-off some folks would consider." He later said he had "misspoke."

In [his campaign announcement] video, Oz cast the coronavirus response as a matter of individual rights. "COVID has shown us that our system is broken. We lost too many lives, too many jobs and too many opportunities because Washington got it wrong. They took away our freedom without making us safer," he said.

Despite his long history as a public figure and as a medical doctor, Oz is a political newcomer. It is unclear if he yet fulfills the residency requirement to run for Senate in Pennsylvania. Oz and his family have made their longtime home in Cliffside Park, N.J. He reportedly has been searching for a home in the Philadelphia suburbs, according to Politico.

Dr. Oz is not a total quack -- he actually is a heart surgeon -- but that hasn't stopped him from profiting enormously from hyping the sheerest quackery and bunkum to the American public -- which isn't usually a precursor to a political career. Well, Ben Carson was a brain surgeon, but that obviously didn't qualify him in the slightest for a life in politics.

As for Oz's qualifications to even appear on the ballot, according to the Associated Press, Oz is actually from "New Jersey, where he has lived for the past two decades before he began voting in Pennsylvania's elections this year by absentee ballot, registered to his in-laws' address in suburban Philadelphia." In other words, he's a carpetbagger, plain and simple -- and he may have even committed voter fraud (with a mail-in ballot, no less!).

Or, to put it another way, the opposition research against Oz is going to start with "There's no place like home," whether it comes from his fellow Republicans or his eventual Democratic opponent. And there's an excellent chance we'll see a few "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" attack ads, as well. As HuffPost helpfully points out: "Federal Election Commission records show he has contributed to candidates from both parties, including Democrats John Kerry, a former presidential candidate who is now President Joe Biden's climate envoy, and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)." So you can bet that's going to come up during primary season.

Our previous president did prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that name recognition goes a long way in politics these days, so Dr. Oz can't be dismissed out of hand as some patently unqualified grifter who has decided he wants to be a politician. Donald Trump was certainly all of that, after all, and it didn't stop him.

It's a safe bet that Oz's quackery -- as a television snake-oil salesman hyping weight-loss miracle cures and astrology rather than actual medical science -- will be completely welcome in today's Republican Party. They've gone down the quackery rabbit hole ever since COVID arrived on the scene, led by Trump himself, and most of them still have yet to reappear above ground again. At least Dr. Oz never advocated injecting bleach (or sunshine) into the body.

Even so, the idea that a pitchman for miracle cures would ever be considered a statesman is still rather ridiculous. But that's where both the Republican Party and its voters have chosen to live, these days. In a fantasyland of their own making. In Oz, ruled over by a con-man and grifter extraordinaire. That's their new comfort zone, so it's not hard to see why Dr. Oz thought the time was perfect for him to make his entry into GOP politics.

I have to return to Oz (the fantasyland, not the person) to sum up my own feelings about this development. Here are two lesser-known lines from The Wizard Of Oz movie that give voice to my reaction to the news. The first is from the Wizard himself: "You billowing bale of bovine fodder!" This was said when The Great And Powerful Oz was still behind the curtain, bellowing through his false face at the Scarecrow. And the second comes from the Scarecrow himself, when Dorothy Gale is first making his acquaintance. Dorothy asks him a pretty astute question: "How do you talk if you don't have a brain?" The scarecrow replies with a line that describes the sad state of the Republican Party these days: "Well, some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't they?"

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


3 Comments on “Toto, I Have A Feeling We're Not In Kansas Anymore”

  1. [1] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Perhaps his Republican primary opponents will call him a Muslim terrorist.

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Our previous president did prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that name recognition goes a long way in politics these days, so Dr. Oz can't be dismissed out of hand...

    That will always be true in theory, but I like to think that Trump's presidency has blown it, in practice, for all subsequent unqualified wannabes.

  3. [3] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    What the hell, I've always assumed that all those qualifications/characteristics you describe were essential prerequisites to becoming a politician!

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