Hit & Run | Jacob Sullum | C. Everett Koop: Paragon of Public-Health PaternalismIndeed there is, as Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I could have told you. Nothing screams "Respect My Authoritah!" like putting on a uniform no one asked you to wear.
C. Everett Koop, who died yesterday at the age of 96, embodied a vision of the U.S. surgeon general as "America's family doctor." That is what Koop, who served throughout the Reagan administration, called himself in the title of his memoirs, where he explained why he decided to wear the gold-braided, dark blue uniform of a vice admiral, corresponding to his honorary military rank as head of the U.S. Public Health Service:
I put it on immediately, because I felt it would help reestablish the languishing authority of the Surgeon General and revive the morale of the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service. There is something about a uniform.Indeed there is, but whether you view that something as inspiring or ridiculous in this context probably depends on whether you think the country needs a paramilitary nag in chief to tell us how we should be behave so as to minimize morbidity and mortality.
Is it really even a "uniform" if you're the only one who wears it? What is it uniform to?
Rule of thumb — anyone who puts gold braids on their sleeves of their own initiative is not to be trusted with power. Or a sewing machines.