05 October 2005

Another crony resigns.... but why?

MORE THAN 10 days have passed since Lester M. Crawford abruptly announced his resignation as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. At the time, he stated nothing more than it was "time to step aside." Mr. Crawford had been confirmed as commissioner only two months previously, after holding the job of acting commissioner for a year and a half (and spending a good chunk of that time struggling to be confirmed).

Mr. Crawford has denied an allegation of financial impropriety. The FDA refuses to say anything on the matter.

Certainly Mr. Crawford's brief term contained no shortage of political controversies. Among them was a promise he made to Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to make a decision about the emergency contraceptive Plan B approved by the FDA's scientists. When he broke that promise within weeks of winning Senate confirmation, delaying approval further, the FDA's top women's health official resigned in protest, stating she could no longer work for an agency that politicized regulatory decisions that are supposed to be made on scientific and legal grounds. Does that mean the FDA no longer has an independent, apolitical standing? If the issue really is corruption, or personal behavior, as some who know Mr. Crawford claim -- then to say so would help clarify the relationship with the White House.

Another major public official has resigned; the administration owes the public an explanation.

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