Swine flu is upon us and our government is responding to the budding crisis with its usual mix of incompetence, quiet inefficiency, and the race to see which official can cover their arse more thoroughly. In this game of bureaucratic musical chairs, the one left standing when the music stops usually ends up getting the blame if anything goes wrong.
Realizing this, our president played golf while his people danced, dodged, and weaved like prize pugilists, trying not to induce panic, but also trying not to sound too blase about the whole thing either. It was a delicate balance that none of them achieved.
At a press conference yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano — you know, the official in charge of border security who doesn’t think illegally crossing into America is a crime — did her best to cover all the bases as well as her own bureaucratic rear end. She literally spoke out of both sides of her mouth in the same sentence as she tried to explain just what the government meant by a “public health emergency:”
The term “sounds more severe than it really is,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who called the measure “standard operating procedure,” adding, “I wish we could call it a declaration of emergency preparedness.”
Why don’t we just call it “a declaration of our intent to declare a declaration that would declare a possible public health emergency unless it isn’t”?
One believes that if Napolitano had another side of her mouth through which she could have uttered more nonsense — or perhaps another orifice where noise would have been equally enlightening — she would have also used that.
It’s not really her fault. While our president was duffing his way around the links at Andrews Air Force Base, several people who might have proven to be very useful in this crisis were not present at that White House briefing. The reason they weren’t there is because they don’t exist yet — at least not in the sense that they are on the government payroll and enjoying all the perks to which senior bureaucratic officials have become accustomed.
It seems our president has been spending more time planning for the gala celebration of his 100th day in office than actually doing what we’re paying him to do. Right now, the two major crises facing America — the bank mess and swine flu — are being addressed by executive departments that have a lot of empty offices due to the singular failure of the boss to hire high-level appointees at Treasury and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to assist in dealing with the problems.
There is no HHS secretary yet, as Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius awaits the pleasure of Democrats in the Senate. The president’s first choice, Tom Daschle, withdrew his name after a wee spot of trouble with the tax man, and, as is his fashion, the president went about the task of naming a replacement for him in a leisurely fashion. In fact, given that the top 19 desks at at HHS are currently vacant, it’s no wonder that the administration was caught napping on the magnitude of the swine flu problem:
U.S. public health officials did not know about a growing outbreak of swine flu in Mexico until nearly a week after that country started invoking protective measures, and didn’t learn that the deaths were caused by a rare strain of the influenza until after Canadian officials did.
It may be that our “public health officials” didn’t know because there aren’t too many of them in positions of authority at the moment. We apparently have an “acting director” of the Centers for Disease Control named Richard Besser, which I suppose is meant to inspire confidence. The fact that he has been on the job only since late January doesn’t inspire me at all. He joined Napolitano and White House homeland security adviser John Brennan at the press briefing on Sunday.
Interestingly, both Besser and Brennan are anti-terror experts. Excuse me for asking, but is there anyone in government at the moment who might be like, you know, an expert on the flu? I’m sure both men are competent public servants, but for the love of Mike, given all the holes in Obama’s health team, it may have been a confidence builder if we had seen a doctor taking questions. Don’t we have a surgeon general or something that’s supposed to do stuff like that?
Well, no, not exactly. We almost had a surgeon general, but Sanjay Gupta declined the honor. I guess he figured there were enough CNN personnel already on the White House payroll.
No HHS secretary, no top department heads at the agency, no permanent director at CDC, no surgeon general, and in charge of this flu emergency is a rather dense, but well-meaning secretary of homeland security who looks under her bed every night for fascists, neo-Nazis, Kluxers, and veterans returning from the wars who she believes will go rogue and join the militia movement.
Come to think of it, maybe if we told Napolitano that swine flu was a right-wing extremist plot hatched by abortion foes and anti-illegal immigration activists, she’d have the government whipped into shape to face this crisis in no time.
So Obama and his half-government seem to be doing all they can to both scare people to death and downplay the crisis. Nice trick if you can pull it off. But they aren’t, so it’s now time for plan B — and that’s “B” for “Blame the Republicans.”
The left-wing netnuts are getting very good at turning tragedy and crisis into a political football that bounces to their advantage. You will recall that the hurricane strength winds had barely died down in New Orleans when the liberal blogosphere erupted in anguish over the slowness of the federal government’s response to the disaster. And in the following days, a reason was found for the government’s tardiness: George W. Bush hated black people and wanted them to die.
Not being the most imaginative of folk, our lefty friends woke up this morning and, whether a result of coordination through their infamous “JournoList” or just because all liberals basically think alike anyway, decided to repeat their success with the Katrina campaign by blaming Republicans for the lack of preparedness by government.
The message is clear: Conservative Republicans want to kill you:
When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long championed investment in pandemic preparation, included roughly $900 million for that purpose in this year’s emergency stimulus bill, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans.
But former White House political czar Karl Rove and key congressional Republicans — led by Maine Senator Susan Collins — aggressively attacked the notion that there was a connection between pandemic preparation and economic recovery.
Of course, the fact that all House Republicans and all but three senators voted against the stimulus bill, where Obey’s proposal was inserted, means that Republicans want all of you to die a horrible death, drowning in your own fluids as you burn up with fever and your loved ones look on in horror and dismay.
Well, they don’t come right out and say it, of course. But that is clearly the message being advanced on major liberal websites and blogs.
The only problem with this meme is that it’s not exactly true, as Don Surber points out:
If we follow this silly Democratic talking point, then for every dollar spent on fighting swine flu will cost taxpayers $874.44 using Nichols example.
What is more, Republicans were right. An emergency appropriation could be made after the fact — as we do every disaster be it hurricanes, tornadoes or blizzards. Is he saying by not appropriating money for these certain disasters that Democrats favor hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards?
Nichols is just mouthing the White House words.
And another problem that may prove a bit more difficult for our lefty friends to explain away is that no one — no House members or senators from either party — got to vote on Mr. Obey’s preparedness measures. Did those bloodthirsty Republicans who want to see all of you dead defeat the forces of sweetness and light by cruelly pulling some arcane parliamentary maneuver to force the codicil out of the bill?
Not exactly. It appears that Mr. Obey’s preparedness spending was removed by Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York. And even Schumer believed it didn’t belong in the stim bill:
“All those little porky things that the House put in, the money for the [National] Mall or the sexually transmitted diseases or the flu pandemic, they’re all out,” Schumer said.
And as Michelle Malkin points out:
There is actually one sane person at the Daily Kos. Probably won’t be there for long, but give this person credit for pointing out that the left-wing attacks on Republicans over flu pandemic funding are utterly ridiculous. The money they are shrieking about was included in a different bill passed by the Senate – and in fact, was funding requested by George W. Bush.
That funding was part of a $7 billion request from back in 2005, when government was gearing up for bio-terror and bird flu preparedness. Most Republicans supported that request and helped pass the omnibus budget bill in March of this year, which gave Mr. Obey his $900 million in pandemic preparedness.
So I’m sure you’re relieved to know that the GOP really doesn’t want to kill you — at least not with swine flu. But when the next crisis comes along, you can be sure that liberals will once again politicize it as fast as they can in order to prove that their political opponents belong either in a loony bin or on death row.