McCain Blames Autism on Mercury
John McCain recently “declared that ‘there’s strong evidence’ that thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that was once in many childhood vaccines, is responsible for the increased diagnoses of autism in the U.S.” Jake Tapper reports.
Megan McArdle terms the assertion “nonsense on stilts” and observes that there is now robust scientific evidence to the contrary. Pondering why McCain would say such a thing, she offers two alternative explanations. The more plausible:
The vast expansion of the state means that we expect our representatives to have opinions on everything from missile defense to flame-retardant pajamas. No one could possibly learn about every subject we expect them to know, even if he were not spending sixteen hours a day doing the grip-and-grin with voters, lobbyists, donors, and other politicians.
That’s without doubt true. In this particular case, I would cite the fact that Don Imus has spent years hammering home the mercury-autism link on his program. Given that McCain was (perhaps still is?) a frequent guest on the show, it wouldn’t surprise me if he got a lot of disinformation on this issue from listening to Imus’ rantings on the matter. Given that this isn’t among the top hundred or so issues around which the battle for the Republican nomination is centered, one suspects it’s not something that he’s reading about in his briefing books.
On the McLaughlin scale, where 1 is a minuscule difference that one can detect only with a very powerful microscope and 10 is of such monumental impact that it will derail the campaign, I’d rate this a 2.