Clear and Present Danger

Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1919 that sometimes it is necessary to restrict freedom of speech. Holmes said that the test was "whether the words... are used in such circumstances as to create a clear and present danger." Donald Trump's words linking vaccination to autism constitute such a danger to the health and well being of all children. And two of the other candidates, who are genuine physicians, passively colluded with Trump's fear mongering by not confronting him directly. Shame on both of them.

We all know that Trump is reckless -- that he's more than comfortable speaking his mind. He is not concerned about being politically correct. It is even refreshing to hear his disdain for politicians who use focus groups first to test and then shape their ideas. But at one point in the debate he moved from being merely irresponsible to becoming outright dangerous. That was when he linked vaccination to autism. In a single moment he endangered the health and even the lives of countless children by authoritatively warning parents of the risk vaccination poses.

Moderator Jake Tapper confronted him, reminding him that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated unequivocally that there is no link between vaccination and autism. But Trump did not back away. He said, "You take a beautiful baby and pump it [he paused] with what looks like it's for a horse and not for a child." He then said, "Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic."

Tapper then asked Dr. Ben Carson what his take was on Trump's medical opinion. Carson first joked, saying, "He's an OK doctor." And even though Carson went on to say, "we have it well-documented that there is no autism associated with vaccinations," he added that some doctors may give the shots too close together. Rand Paul, also a physician, added his libertarian perspective that parents have the right to decide for themselves whether or not to immunize their children.

Those two doctors should have their medical licenses reconsidered, and maybe even revoked for their passive collusion with Trump's lies.

Ignorance is not just bliss, and preying on the ignorance of others by misinforming them is not just a source of power. Trump went a vital step further when his reckless words morphed into a clear and present danger to the health of our young. He must be confronted, then forced to retract his language and finally forced to encourage all parents to vaccinate their children. Period. End of story.