Leavitt to HHS?

Well, perhaps now we’ll see if, as discussed at length on this site, there is anything particular a Mormon can offer to discussions of stem-cell research or family welfare policies. President Bush has just nominated former Utah governor Mike Leavitt to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

My guess: don’t expect to see Mormon theology mingle with Republican orthodoxy anytime soon.

11 comments for “Leavitt to HHS?

  1. Adam Greenwood
    December 14, 2004 at 9:23 am

    Since we don’t have a theology with respect to stem cells–the Church has taken a neutral position–I would be very surprised to see Mormon theology mingle with Republican orthodoxy in this regard. Sounds more like a cheap shot than a legitimate complaint to me.

    Anyway, one could have a complete disregard for the embryos that are destroyed in stem cell research and still think President Bush’s position reasonable: that the government will not fund research involving further destruction of embryos. If nothing else, this position respects the proportion of the populace who believes that human embryos are human beings and resent being taxed to pay for their destruction.

  2. December 14, 2004 at 9:45 am

    It truly will be interesting to see if Leavitt will approach the stem-cell question any differently than Bush. Bush does seem to have sincere principles on this matter so I’m guessing even if Leavitt had the disposition to encourage stem-cell research, he would be constrained from altering Bush’s policies on the matter.

  3. December 14, 2004 at 9:46 am

    Perhaps I should have been slightly more concrete in the way I said things. It’s quite possible that Leavitt is himself opposed to stem-cell research. I have no idea.

  4. December 14, 2004 at 9:59 am

    You’re right Adam, it was a cheap shot. My apologies. Blame it on the compulsion to come up with some handy, provocative concluding sentence. I actually have few if any specific complaints with Mike Leavitt; I think many of his policy preferences are flawed, but no more or less than those of any number of other Bush appointees, and his virtues are many.

    Still, in general the question about moral theology and political practice is worth asking. As Matt, myself, and many others all strongly believe (though to a degree in completely different directions), Mormon theology arguably ought to suggest certain public preferences in regards to welfare, health, family and life-oriented issues, preferences that in some cases are in alignment with the Republican platform, and in other cases are in opposition to it. I don’t think Leavitt is going to be any sort of Mormon Crusader in his office, which is something of a shame, because unlike the case of having an Mormon appointed any number of different positions (Secretary of Energy, for example), HHS is involved in these issues in a central way, and it would be good for us, in my view at least, to have the Mormon contribution to these issues thoroughly argued out in a serious and consequential way (as opposed to, well, just blogging about them as we do).

  5. Adam Greenwood
    December 14, 2004 at 10:03 am

    Thanks, R. Fox. I still think I need to take my thinskinometer in for a recalibration though.

  6. December 14, 2004 at 10:52 am

    Russell: It is unreasonable to expect our chief bureacrats to also be our chief intellectuals. Furthermore, I don’t think that we really want them to be. They are busy. Furthermore, thinking consists mainly in having stupid ideas and then figuring out why they are stupid. I would rather not have this happen with expensive government programs with potentially huge consequences. I think that policy makers should be engaged in intellectual debate, and I think that they should be consumers of carefully thought through theories on various issues. I neither expect nor really want them to be the primary producers of such theories.

  7. December 14, 2004 at 11:31 am


    “thinking mainly consists in having stupid ideas and then figuring out why they are stupid.”

    That’s the best line I’ve heard in a long time. Sounds like an accurate description of graduate school.

  8. December 14, 2004 at 1:05 pm

    Interesting they were talking about this this morning on NPR. They said that Hatch is making a concerted effort to get the Mormon position taken up by Bush and Leavitt. Of course Matt won’t see this as the Mormon position (grin)

  9. David Salmanson
    December 16, 2004 at 10:06 am

    Gentile lurker here, but my next history project (many years away from starting) is looking at how Mormon practices relate to New Deal social policies thanks to Marriner Eccles.

  10. danithew
    December 16, 2004 at 10:10 am

    Does anyone question Mr. Leavitt’s qualifications for this job? Wouldn’t it be better to have someone with a medical background in this position?

    I wouldn’t have asked this but I heard an LDS medical student yesterday slamming Bush for making this decision. I guess that hadn’t occurred to me.

  11. a random John
    December 16, 2004 at 11:03 am


    While I was asking the same question I came up with the answer that Leavitt has experience in the insurance industry, which is applicable. Seems like he might be more qualified for this than EPA. :)

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