Until last Friday Randall Tobias was the Bush Administration official in charge of foreign aid. He oversaw the distribution of billions of dollars worth of drugs and medical services through programs that advocate abstinence and forbid recipients from giving out condoms and providing health education to prostitutes. On Thursday evening Tobias was informed by Brian Ross, the head of ABC News, that his phone number identified him as a client of Deborah Jeanne Palfrey’s escort service. Tobias acknowledged that he had phoned “to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage,” but claimed there had been “no sex.” Tobias volunteered that he also used a service “with Central American gals” to get massages. (Palfrey employed gringas recruited through ads in the University of Maryland student newspaper and the Washington City Paper.) Ross quoted Tobias on Good Morning, America, Friday morning and Tobias immediately resigned. Secretary of State Rice and President Bush expressed regrets. Both are said to like him very much.
Tobias’s “no sex” comment jibed with Palfrey’s assertion that none of her thousands of big-shot clients were paying to get laid Palfrey has been indicted by federal prosecutors for running a prostitution ring. As she was leaving court Monday she referred to Tobias’s comment as “valuable exculpatory evidence” and said he should have come forward sooner. “Had he done so earlier, along with many, many others who have used my company’s services throughout the years, I most likely would not be in my current predicament,” said Palfrey. She expressed regret for having outed Tobias (by giving her phone records to ABC News). The two are natural allies. As head of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Tobias was a leading advocate of sexual abstinence. Palfrey was also an advocate of abstinence, in her way. Having once served 18 months for pimping and not wanting to get busted again, she had the women she hired sign contracts agreeing that they would dress up in costumes, give massages, engage in lascivious conversation, play Monopoly in the nude, and generally do whatever the client desired excluding suckie-suckie and fuckie-fuckie. Palfrey describes the services her subcontractors provided as “sexual, albeit legal,” which sounds somewhat defensive. She could and should claim to have been promoting “Affirmative Abstinence.” Tobias can testify that he hired the service because he was evaluating the “Affirmative Abstinence” approach for PEPFAR.
If anyone can sell Affirmative Abstinence it’s Randall Tobias. During his five years as CEO of Eli Lilly (1993-’98) the stock rose 440%, thanks mainly to Prozac sales. Eleven months into Tobias’s reign at Lilly, his wife of 28 years committed suicide. Tobias later told Donald McNeil, Jr., of the New York Times, “She’d had health problems for years and had been to a number of doctors, all of whom diagnosed the problem based on what it said on their door -Lyme disease, chronic fatigue, lupus.” McNeil wrote: “Only when they moved and she went to a new doctor did she learn that she had severe depression. She began taking Prozac, then Lilly’s blockbuster drug. It did not help her, nor does it help 30 percent of those who take it, Tobias said, and she stopped. Months of other treatments did not help, and she ultimately took her life, with car exhaust, just after their children had finished college and law school. Mr. Tobias talks about that… because he hates the shame over mental illness that his wife felt.”
Randall Tobias managed to turn his wife’s suicide into a sales pitch for Prozac! “Shame over mental illness” is a concept pushed by Lillly marketers, it’s code for “reluctance to take drugs,” an attitude to be eradicated. The subliminal claim that Prozac “helps” 70% of people who take it is false… The new Mrs. T. is a concert pianist with the Indiana Symphony. I wonder if she’s depressed, too.
More will be revealed by the Palfrey camp on ABC’s “20/20” show Friday night. Among the clients named in court documents are Dick “Toesucker” Morris, a creepy right-winger whose advice the Clintons value, and Harlan Ullman, a former Navy Commander who is credited with devising the “shock and awe” tactic employed by the U.S. Military in Iraq.
FRED GARDNER edits O’Shaughnessy’s, the Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice (soon to have a presence on the web). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org