The Times’s Gardiner Harris reported this morning that “former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional panel Tuesday that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.”

Explosive stuff, and it led to some expected responses in the blogosphere, as well as a few that might not have occurred to us spectators.

Michael J.W. Stickings at The Reaction exemplifies the horrified amusement of the left: “Finally a presidency in full anti-enlightenment mode. I’m surprised they haven’t taken the logical next steps and come out against, say, gravity. An apple fell on Newton’s head? No, we can’t talk about that.”

While Nick Anthis, the Scientific Activist, is in predictably high dudgeon. “There’s no reason why we should be particularly surprised about all of this, but Carmona’s testimony is particularly shocking,” he writes. “Without a doubt, this administration has been the most hostile to science (and anything else that counters its narrow, extreme, short-sighted, and destructive right-wing agenda) of any that I know about. This will be the Bush legacy, and thank God (for the sake of scientific progress) it’s almost over.”

Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger Report is more amused by the Bush administration’s response. “Bill Hall, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, added, ‘It has always been this administration’s position that public health policy should be rooted in sound science.’ ” reports Benen. “It looks like Hall made the comment over the phone — so reporters wouldn’t have to see him struggle to keep a straight face. I do have one question, though. After years of heavy-handed politicization, why didn’t Carmona resign as soon as he realized how pathetic the White House is?”

Still, some feel the White House was only following precedent. “Carmona says he was told to shaddup about stem cell research and the morning-after pill Plan B,” writes Nick Gillespie at Reason. “He was talking to a committee convened by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and joined by two other ex-surgeons general, David Satcher, who served under (cough, cough) Bill Clinton, and C. Everett Koop …. Satcher told a tale of political buttinskyism too.”

Gillespie cites a Washington Post article, which noted that Satcher was told he could not release a report on sexuality and public health, “in part because of sensitivities triggered by the Monica Lewinsky scandal,” and that “Clinton also forced out Joycelyn Elders as surgeon general in 1994 after her controversial remarks that public schools should consider teaching about masturbation.”

“On that last point,” notes Gillespie, “just think what would have happened had schools actually started teaching masturbation. Talk about federal overreach! If there’s one thing you don’t even need vouchers for, much less a centralized curriculum, it’s probably masturbation. I imagine that within a few years, American students’ standing in international rankings would have dropped through the floor.”

Dick Polman acknowledges the Clinton precedent, but sees a more disturbing pattern:

Indeed, everything Carmona said yesterday merely confirms what John DiIulio was the first to say, five long years ago. DiIulio, a University of Pennsylvania professor and domestic policy expert, lasted barely a year as director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. His parting shot looks more prescient with each passing day: “There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you’ve got is everything—and I mean everything—being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.”

Now, those of us who have watched far too many reruns know that Mayberry had a physician of its own, Dr. Peterson, whose practice struggled because none of Andy Griffith’s townsfolk wanted to see him — they questioned his expertize and were scared of what he might have to say. Perhaps DiIulio’s clever line held a bit more truth than even he realized.