When the State Department announced that Secretary Clinton would not be accompanying President Obama to Moscow it was completely understandable. She took a nasty fall last month on her way to the White House. (Some wags would say she took an even nastier fall last year on her way to the White House.) But I wish her a speedy recovery from her fractured elbow.
As understandable as the cancelled trip is, it does raise a pertinent question: Why not go to Russia anyway? After all, Russian health care has been nationalized since shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. They ought to have all the kinks in the system worked out by now.
If Secretary Clinton should reconsider and decide to hop on Air Force Three, I'd recommend she take a good book for the long flight to Moscow. She should read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "Cancer Ward." The late Nobel Prize-winning writer, it seems, had a lot to say about socialized medicine back in the old days of the USSR.
For one thing, women played a key role in Soviet medicine. Solzhenitsyn writes with great respect, even reverence, about the brave and able women doctors, nurses, and health workers. His fictional heroines are based on his real-life experiences in a provincial cancer treatment center. Dr. Vera Gangart is overworked, underpaid, and understaffed, but she soldiers on bravely, with real compassion.
She's a wise Slavic woman. She may not have the latest equipment or the newest drugs with which to treat her needy patients, but Dr. Gangart has loads of empathy. So has Zoya the nurse and Ludmilla the X-Ray technician.
Hillary Clinton might recognize a certain Russian "Catch-22" at work in this novel, though. Soviet medicine was predominantly a women's profession. This was largely attributable to the huge numbers of men who were killed in World War II. But by the time women got to a position where their natural gifts could really be employed, the profession of medicine no longer had the prestige that it had once commanded.
Hillary's decision not go to Russia may not be so surprising, after all. It seems that countries with socialized medicine not only have trouble attracting the best doctors and nurses, they even have trouble attracting the best patients.
Take Fidel Castro, for example. When "El Maximum Lider" took ill, he was not treated by those famous Cuban doctors whom President Obama admires so much. Instead, Fidel imported the best specialists -- from Spain.
Even in the free nations, patients who can fly... fly. Several years ago the Premier of Quebec was diagnosed with a mild form of cancer. He might have waited for treatment under Canada's famous national health system. Or, he might have flown to Buffalo, New York. Would you care to guess which path he chose?
So I am entirely sincere when I say to our esteemed Secretary of State: Stay home, Hillary, and get well!
Ken Blackwell is the former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission He is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.