RandyW Posted November 28, 2008 Share Posted November 28, 2008 Elizabeth Edwards for cancer czar By Matt Dallek Thursday, November 27th 2008, 4:00 AM In August 2007, Barack Obama issued a statement vowing that if his presidential bid succeeded, he would "make ending cancer the top priority it needs to be by increasing funding for the NIH, NCI and other medical research grants." Now that he's won the White House, he can take the first simple, bold step to fulfill this promise - by appointing Elizabeth Edwards to launch a new campaign against cancer. True, presidentially appointed "czars" tend to be quickly forgotten bit Washington players, and the wars they lead, tarnished by inartful slogans like "Just say No," rarely achieve liftoff. (Few, for example, probably recall names like Jimmy Carter's drug czar, Lee Dogoloff.) Newsweek's Jonathan Alter recently said that "the War on Cancer . . . has been a failure," and for tens of thousands of Americans, that statement rings depressingly true. Edwards could help lead the battle to turn that war in the other direction. She brings considerable political savvy, media star-power, and policy credibility and expertise - a combination that few other Americans can claim. She is among the few people in this country with the inspirational personal story, public draw and policy knowledge to help fulfill Obama's funding pledge and launch a stepped-up fight against the second-leading killer of Americans today. While John Edwards has been a ghost since news of his infidelity broke, Elizabeth has only grown in prominence. She has blogged about cancer in the "Wonk Room" at the Center for American Progress, where she's a senior fellow. She appeared with Lance Armstrong and NPR's recently deceased Leroy Sievers in a Discovery Channel television show in 2007 about living with cancer. And she became a moving national symbol of grace, courage and flatout heroism to Americans when she announced almost two years ago that she had terminal breast cancer that had spread to her bones. The truth - a truth that Obama, a man who has benefited from having a powerful personal story himself, must appreciate - is that the American media pays too little attention to cancer as a political or policy challenge, unless the story involves a celebrity like Patrick Swayze or Katie Couric. Thus, as a lawyer, author, health care advocate and presidential candidate's spouse, Edwards brings the high public profile that the country needs to draw media attention to the growing cancer crisis in America. Make no mistake: Cancer is a crisis, a series of private catastrophes that afflicts Americans akin to the economic crisis that's so much in the news. While one study released this week showed that diagnoses have ticked slightly downward, the statistics are still grim for far too many Americans. The five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is around 46%; for lung cancer, it's approximately 15%; for pancreatic cancer, the rate is 4%. Edwards would not simply be a symbol of Obama's commitment to fulfilling his campaign pledge. She'd also help him to keep his promise to "double federal funding for cancer research within five years," giving a badly needed boost to the scientific research community and the National Cancer Institute, which awards grants to cancer researchers. Obama also has promised to expand clinical trials, stop insurers' from discriminating against cancer patients, and increase efforts across the federal government to wage war on this disease. Edwards would help on all fronts. But Obama has another reason to create the position - and tap Edwards to fill it: For him, this issue is personal. Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro, died from ovarian cancer in 1995 at the age of 53. And in the past three decades, the five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer "has not significantly increased," according to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance's Web site. Hope and change. The two mantras of the Obama presidential campaign - and the two messages that millions of cancer patients and their families most desperately need to hear. Bring on Elizabeth Edwards to make it real. Dallek is author of "The Right Moment: Ronald Reagan's First Victory and the Decisive Turning Point in American Politics." He is a cancer survivor, and he recently did a bike tour to raise money for pancreatic cancer research at Johns Hopkins. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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