Home > Politics > I’m giving Rand Paul a tiny slice of “the benefit of the doubt” – Temporarily!

I’m giving Rand Paul a tiny slice of “the benefit of the doubt” – Temporarily!

I first saw the story about Rand Paul NOT being “board certified” in Ophthalmology in the Huffington Post today.  And although I would like to credit the person who I saw that Tweeted the link, I searched Twitter and there were far too many (1,000s) of mentions for me to track down where I saw it.

I’m blogging because Keith Olbermann covered it today on the “It’s Tea Time” segment on Countdown, but I think he left out a (potentially) important part of the story.  Read the Huffington Post Story (linked above) and watch this clip:

Clip? What Clip? I tried 5 or 6 different ways to get the MSNBC clip into this post – all unsuccessful – so I’m just going to give a quick description:

Keith made good points about both Rand Paul and what’s her name (the GOP nominee for Senate in Nevada) lying. It’s all of 105 seconds. And it’s his regular “It’s Tea Time” segment wherein he points out various inanities of the Tea Party.

Wait! Brainstorm! MSNBC will let me “share” the segment through email – via a custom link. So try this link to see the segment. And sorry about the Flash and the Ad – that’s MSBC’s doing, not mine!

While the Huffington Post story was generally critical of Dr. Paul, it did present his side of the story: That although he isn’t certified by the “Board” that is recognized by the AMA (the American Board of Ophthalmology – aka ABO), he feels that he has good reasons – and that he IS certified by an alternative board (which he helped found) – the National Board of Ophthalmology (NBO). The reason he gives for the switch – and for his support of the NBO – is that the ABO adopted re-certification requirements – and at the time of adoption, the ABO exempted all currently “certified” ophthalmologists from the re-certification. He argues that creates 2 entirely separate classes of ABO “certified” ophthalmologists – those certified but exempt – the older doctors – who can claim to be certified but aren’t required to re-certify, and the younger “certified” ophthalmologists who have to re-certify every 10 years.

I think Keith missed a potentially much larger story by focusing only on Dr. Paul not being ABO certified.

Before I outline it, you must know that I’m no fan of Dr. Paul. As with all fundamentalist Libertarians, the ideas he espouses may seem reasonable on the surface, but once you dig down to the policy implications they become abhorrent.  So this is not a defense of Dr. Paul.

So what’s the larger story? IMHO it’s the lack of third party oversight of many professional associations – in general those associations that “certify” their practitioners with the tacit blessing of government – and in particular, the lack of third party oversight of the Medical profession.

What does “board certified” really mean? In the medical profession, it means that you have passed a process (which usually includes testing but often does NOT include outcome reviews) administered by your peers. In some cases, it doesn’t even mean that! When medical boards first appeared, existing practitioners were exempt and declared “board certified” with no process or testing.  However, as the original grandfathered practitioners are now mostly retired (I hope) – effectively “board certified” means you’ve been through the process ONCE. You might be young enough to be required to re-certify, but there’s no distinction that a member of the public can discern.

The older the doctor I see, the MORE I want her to be periodically tested and peer reviewed – but the medical boards have insured that these doctors – who may be showing symptoms of age related loss of memory and reasoning ability – don’t have to re-certify!

That’s the story that I think Keith should have pursued – the medical application of:

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

and it’s far too involved to be part of his “Tea Time” segments. But he could have – at least – given a few sentences to Dr. Paul’s story – and promised to report more fully on it “soon”. That he chose to go with only the sensational “Rand Paul Lied” is, frankly, a disappointment.

Am I certain of all I’ve related above? Not in the details. I’m not a medical professional (although I was a Paramedic in my younger days). I have read and heard enough to know the general outlines of self-regulating medical professionals – and to not trust it.

Am I going to dig deeper? No. I’m sorry but I just don’t have the time.  Am I going to give Dr. Paul a real benefit of the doubt? Not unless someone ELSE I trust digs into the NBO enough to show that, although founded in part by Dr. Paul, it is a genuine, standards based and peer reviewed, third party certification with no grandfathering – of anything!

Finally, before you post comments like: “Keith is a commentator, not a reporter.” or “Keith can’t go into that kind of depth – it’s not his bag.” Yes – you’re right. But given the current media deluge, and my lack of time to see/hear/read everything that I think would be worth seeing, hearing and reading, I have to pick my sources. After this, Keith’s short segments will mean less to me.



  1. 15 Jun 2010 at 03:54

    Yeah I’m skeptical about this guy too. I like his dad a whole lot more than him so far. But he’s new to politics, so we’ll see…

    • Steve
      15 Jun 2010 at 04:09


      As I said in my post. I’m not a fan of Dr. Paul. This post wasn’t about Dr. Paul, but about the story that Keith missed – and although I didn’t say it explicitly, I trust that anyone who read it through got my point: I’m disappointed in Keith for hyping the easily hyped while missing a far more important story. I think he did his viewers a disservice.

      Speaking of doing your viewers a disservice, see my NEXT post on Jon Steward and today’s Daily Show. I’ll probably have it posted in an hour or two!

      • 15 Jun 2010 at 19:46

        I used to watch Olbermann all the time, hell even as a kid. But he got crazy over the past few years. I think everyone did. It’s all media hype now.

  2. The Center Square
    15 Jun 2010 at 04:18

    While I appreciate the fair-spirited nature of this post, even I have to say it’s a stretch to give Dr Paul the benefit of the doubt here. According to its website, the ABO (the one Dr Paul is not a member of) was founded in 1916 and is “one of 24 medical specialty certifying boards recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.”

    For the NBO, though, I went ten pages deep on google, and could not find any first-hand information at all. Not that that’s any kind of definitive statement on his candidacy, but it’s kind of like describing my business experience as including, “Ran Midwest Regional Coka-Cola Distribution.”

    To me, every citizen of KY (disclosure: of which I am not one) who decries ‘business as usual’ in Washington needs to understand that Dr. Paul is just another guy who creates a public political persona, very different than his actual self. I don’t know about you, but I personally know 100s –1000s, maybe — of people who are real, sincere, smart, honest, straightforward and transparent. Until we demand as a nation people of those qualities to represent us, we’re stuck.

    • Steve
      15 Jun 2010 at 04:46

      Actually, my “Temporarily” lasted only until the penultimate paragraph of my post. While I appreciate your doing what I didn’t do: Digging into the ABO and NBO, I think you’ve missed the larger point of my post: That some “certified” doctors need to be re-certified, but won’t be – and that this is one example of a larger (potential) problem. Not to mention my disappointment in Keith.

  3. The Center Square
    15 Jun 2010 at 05:17

    I think the larger point you raise — which seems valid — applies only in the limited sphere of ophthamologists and the patients who use them. When Dr Paul uses the “board certified” terminology in a POLTIICAL context, however, the arcane distinction between re-certification paradigms is meaningless.

    It seems clear on the surface, to me at least, that Dr Paul offering himself to the political public as “board certified” smacks of a certain amount of puffery. That makes Olbermann’s criticism more valid than not. Personally, I rate that puffery as about par for the political class, but still, puffery it is.

    Thanks for the interesting post. I had not been aware of this before.

  4. Steve
    15 Jun 2010 at 17:21

    The more I see reported on the NBO – and read in comments to this post, then less I trust it, and the more I think that Dr. Paul’s “Principled” objection the certifying with the ABO is just another example of his Libertarian principles seeming to be good on first look, but breaking down to either abhorent policy or – in this case – a dodge that allows Dr. Paul to say “I’m board certified” while running from the regulation he hates.

    I still maintain that Olbermann should have devoted 1-2 sentences to Dr. — wait — strike that — I’m not going to call him Dr. Paul anymore — … to Rand’s justification.

    And I still hope – perhaps forlornly – that some good investigative journalist will investigate the self-regulation in the medical industry – and report on all the exemptions!

  5. The Center Square
    16 Jun 2010 at 01:37

    Well, again, and in the absence of any actual personal information, I have to agree with that analysis of ophthamology credentialing. But I still say that is totally beside the point. If it were only about that, it never would have been on Countdown in the first place.

    The relevant point is that Dr. Paul has been trying to embellish his medical credentials to score POLITICAL points. Not to burnish his medical credentials. That’s why it is on Olbermann, and why the distinctions between ABO and NBO notions are not on point.

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