Thursday, April 30, 2009

Suburban Mom's Political Fix: Was Biden Truth-Telling About the Swine Flu or What?

Last night President Barack Obama told America not to panic about the swine flu pandemic. Be reasonable, he suggested, wash your hands and cover your mouth when you cough. If you become sick, he said, stay home, contact a doctor if you suspect that you or a loved one has flu-like symptoms.

Then this morning Vice President Joe Biden told viewers of the Today Show, "I wouldn't go anywhere in a confined space right now." He even seemed to be suggesting that people should avoid places where there are lots of other people. Like the NBA and NHL playoffs being played in confined arenas? Baseball games being played in parks where the concession areas are confined? Indoor concerts? Movie theaters? Malls? Public bathrooms? Schools?

My questions are: Does Biden know more than he's letting on and just being honest, on a personal level? Or is he overreacting?

It's really hard to determine who's being truthful here, the federal officials who are talking "mitigation" and preaching "reasonableness," while I know full well that they're engaging in a cost-benefit analysis where they're weighing the number of deaths with the economic impact of a public, Biden-like shut-down on an already weakened economy. There'd be a steep economic cost in terms of dollars that'd happen in the wake of this kind of a recommendation, which, I can only imagine would be issued in only the severest of flu cases, so as not to hurt the economy further. That's understandable.

But when I hear the vice president -- a guy who took Amtrak back-and-forth from Delaware to D.C. during his Senate days, someone who earned the nicknamed "Amtrak Joe" -- say he wouldn't want to be in a confined space, that gives me reason to pause and wonder what the internal, White House projections are for the impact of this flu and what costs are being weighed against what benefits.

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