Meet Clayton Yeutter: heartland Republican, onetime agriculture secretary, former RNC chairman, powerful Capital Hill lobbyist and reported babykiller. Here's the story: a few years ago the Department of Health and Human Services became alarmed about the historically-low rates at which moms were breastfeeding their spawns, because as much as it revolts most Republicans to glimpse a woman's bare nipple while she performs this hippie ritual in public, they'd read the studies about how breast milk helps kids avoid sudden infant death syndrome along with all those chronic health problems that get the citizenry all worked up over the skyrocketing cost of the world's most advanced health care. So: they approved some stark public service advertisements meant to urge women to breast feed. And that's when they crossed Clayton, reincarnated as a powerful lobbyist for the baby formula industry, teat of choice for Republican fundraisers.
The ads ran instead with more friendly images of dandelions and cherry-topped ice cream scoops, to dramatize how breast-feeding could help avert respiratory problems and obesity. In a February 2004 letter (pdf), the lobbyists told then-HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson they were "grateful" for his staff's intervention to stop health officials from "scaring expectant mothers into breast-feeding," and asked for help in scaling back more of the ads.
The formula industry's intervention — which did not block the ads but helped change their content — is being scrutinized by Congress in the wake of last month's testimony by former surgeon general Richard H. Carmona that the Bush administration repeatedly allowed political considerations to interfere with his efforts to promote public health.
It's sorta sad, really: it seems that as agriculture secretary young Yuetter was sort of dragged by party elders into Republican child-harming operations; he actually opposed continuing loans for American farm products to Saddam Hussein on account of all those Kurdish kids he'd been nerve gassing until Jim Baker talked him into letting it slide. And now he's spearheading the operation! Oh well, we didn't really want any more reminders of the benefits of breast feeding our babies anyway; all that tugging has to be bad news for perky breasts!
Lobby Tones Down Breastfeeding Campaign [Washington Post]