Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are We Serious About the Swine Flu?

Vice President Joe Biden
"And stay there!"

"I will."

Back in the mid-1990s, I was in Delhi, India as part of a DEA training team participating in a drug law enforcement training seminar with Indian, Sri-Lankan, Bangladeshi and Nepalese police. In the last couple of days before our departure, the black plague hit India, and people started dying. Our team was fortunate to be able to be on one of the last planes allowed to leave the country while the non-Indian police officers had to travel by car to their home countries. As we were boarding our plane to Frankfurt, a health official in a white coat was seated at a desk in front of the boarding area. We had to pass his desk and be cleared by him for boarding. When it was my turn, he took my wrist and monitored my pulse for a few seconds before telling me to go ahead. Upon arrival in Frankfurt, we were not allowed to disembark before a German doctor-followed by a nurse walked up and down the aisles looking at everybody before giving the OK. Of course, that somewhat experience reminds me of the current crisis we are facing with the swine flu.

Epidemic, pandemic-whatever you want to call it, I think we all agree that ground zero for the swine flu is in Mexico. While hoping for the best for the Mexican people in coping with the problem, we also have to look out for our own people since we are next door, and there is a ton of traffic between the two countries, both legal and illegal. Last night, President Obama assured us he and his government would do everything necessary to protect us from the flu. Yet, in the next breath, he rejected suggestions that the Mexican border should be closed calling it a case of closing the barn door after the horses have left. Then Joe Biden, in his own inimitable way, contradicted the President when he said that he would not let his family get on an airplane-which infuriated the airline industry. So how are we, the public, supposed to sort all this out?

Quandary number one: Just how serious is this? Obama says it is a cause for "concern", but not for panic. On the other hand, the head of the World Health Organization is calling this a pandemic, which threatens all of man-kind (by its very definition).

Quandary number two: LA-based radio talk show host Doug McIntyre hit the nail on the head this morning when he pointed out that when it comes to our border with Mexico, there is no barn door to begin with. We can't (or won't) secure that border to stop the flow of illegal aliens, drugs or to protect the US from the violence that is spilling over into the border states and cities like Phoenix. It looks like we can't (or won't) secure it to protect against the swine flu.

Be that the case, if we don't have the wherewith all to shut down the border with Mexico, why are we still allowing flights to come into the US from Mexico every single day? That we can stop right now-if we had the will, which, apparently, we do not. It is my understanding that France has stopped flights to and from Mexico. If so, why can't we?

You all know the answer to that, don't you? It is all about politics, diplomacy and political correctness. The Mexican Government would protest if we did that as would many of the Hispanic pressure groups. It would look bad. It would be called racist. So don't expect anything to happen on that front. Flights from Mexico City, Guadalajara and Cancun will continue to arrive daily in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and other places every day.

And Joe Biden's comment? Well, as expected, his office has come out with a "clarification". What the VP really said-or meant-was that people should not travel if they feel sick and exercise the proper precautions when traveling-just like Obama said.

Here is what Biden said on NBC's "Today" Show:

"I would tell members of my family -- and I have -- I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now. It's not that it's going to Mexico in a confined aircraft where one person sneezes, that goes all the way through the aircraft. That's me,"

"I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway. From my perspective, this relates to mitigation. If you're out in the middle of the field and someone sneezes, that's one thing. If you're in a closed aircraft, a closed container, a closed car, a closed classroom, that's another thing."

Biden's spokesperson, Elizabeth Alexander, released a statement shortly after Biden's remarks, saying, "The advice he is giving family members is the same advice the administration is giving to all Americans: that they should avoid unnecessary air travel to and from Mexico. If they are sick, they should avoid airplanes and other confined public spaces, such as subways. This is the advice the vice president has given family members who are traveling by commercial airline this week."

Joe Biden's spokesperson at work

Here is what White House Press Spokesman (and professional comedian) Robert Gibbs said about Biden's remarks in answer to a question from ABC's Jake Tapper: "I think ... what the vice president meant to say was the same thing that again, many members have said in the last few days, that is, if you feel sick, if you are exhibiting flulike symptoms -- coughing, sneezing, runny nose -- that you should take precautions, that you should limit your travel. Jake, I'm telling you what he meant to say," he said as everybody laughed.

And of course, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, fulfilled her daily quota of silly statements as she tried to rephrase what Biden said.

"I think the vice president, if he had, if he could say that over again he would say if they're feeling sick they should stay off public transit or confined spaces because that is indeed the advice that we're giving," Napolitano said on MSNBC.

These comments raise another question: If the government is advising us to avoid all unnecessary travel to Mexico, why is there no urgency or desire to stop, control or inhibit travel into the US from Mexico?

This swine flu issue has the potential to leave a permanent scar on the Obama presidency. If this epidemic continues to spread in the US and causes huge loss of life, Obama's actions-or lack thereof- will come under close scrutiny. Is there the potential for over-reaction? Sure. However, it seems that this is a case for better safe than sorry. Certainly, we should lend evry possible assistance to Mexico in their efforts to fight the flu, but the President's primary duty is to protect the American people from its spread into the US. Politics, diplomacy, economic concerns for the airline industry and sensitivities need to take a back seat here.


Anonymous said...

First you say it's a pandemic, then you call it an epidemic. But the WHO has not said that it is either of those things, despite your claim that they have. They've said it has the potential to become a pandemic, but that is completely different. You should consider hiring some full-time fact-checkers to look over your posts before you publish them, Gary.

Gary Fouse said...


I think I said "pandemic, epidemic-whatever you want to call it" I honestly don't know what it is. The reason I didn't hire a fact checker to verify what I said about WHO is because this morning, I listened to the director's words from her own mouth on the radio.

Who needs a fact-checker when you are merely reporting what someone said and you heard her say it yourself?

Linnea Hannigan said...

Why would Obama protect a country he clearly detests? He hates this country and surely doesn't give a rat's behind who lives and who dies. If lots of people die, he'll be thrilled to say "See, if we had had gov't healthcare...." and import more poverty from south of the border to fill the vacant slots.

Gary Fouse said...


This is like watching Alice in Wonderland. Every time some govt official opens their pie hole, something absurd comes out. It is clear this bunch has no clue. They are governed by their in-grained political correctness.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of absurd comments, I think you just made some, Linnea.

Findalis said...

It is an outbreak of a new flu. The regular flu kills thousands each year in the US and even more people worldwide, but the media isn't hyping that up. What is scaring WHO and the CDC is the fast rate that it is spreading through out the world.

Linnea Hannigan said...

Thank you Brian,- prove me wrong. You won't be able to. He hates this country and all it stands for. How can this not be clear to the liberals in this country who are so insanely blinded by the Celebrity-in-Chief.

Ingrid said...

Linnea, I agree with Bryan, your statements are even dumber than some of others I have read here.

Linnea Hannigan said...

Ingrid, if he loved this country, then why would he endanger it? Why would he let terrorists out of Gitmo into the USA? Why would he cripple our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren with taxes and boondoggles? Why would he call waterboarding "torture" but perforating the skull and sucking the brain out of a 24 week old AMERICAN baby is OK? He is warped. He has no sense of morality or allegiance to what is right. He is a narcissist on the never ending quest (read 'campaign') to be revered.

I will never understand the mind of the person who thinks he is good for this country.