I'm a big fan of NYT columnist Paul Krugman, and he has another excellent column in today's NYT. He points out that after the Reagan victory in 1980, and especially since the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, the Food and Drug Administration has been shrunk in terms of resources and personnel, and headed by former lobbyists for Big Agriculture and particularly the meat industry. In fact, meat producers who wanted to voluntarily inspect their own meat for disease were actually prevented from doing so by the FDA during the current administration. This is telling commentary in the context of this weeks' massive demonstrations in South Korea against a new agreement to allow the import of American beef into that country.
All of this suggests another question for Senator McCain. Although he is currently trying to distance himself from the Bush Administration on environmental issues, using energy policy as his chief talking point, Democrats would do well to remember that Senator McCain is one of the principal, longstanding advocates for western ranching interests. As such, his record on environmental regulations, especially those effecting the cattle industry and ranching in general, is something close to perfect: perfectly bad, from either an environmentalist or a public health point of view. My point in discussing that today is not just to point out that this is deplorable, but to continue the project of developing talking points for the campaign. McCain has deep ties to cattle ranchers, who have supported him with serious money for many years. So ask him what he's going to do about meat safety. And while we're at it, maybe we might want to ask him about what sort of foreign policy turns a long-standing ally like South Korea against us as well.