Monday, October 10, 2005

Why Bush Can't Win

After being excoriated over the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the media is distorting the attempts by the Bush Administration to develop a plan to deal with an outbreak of the Avian (H5N1) Flu.

Yes, such an outbreak would be a global pandemic, the likes of which we have not seen since 1918, but isn't it prudent to begin developing plans now to minimize the spread of the virus? This is what the Bush Administration is trying to do and such an effort should receive immediate and unqualified bipartisan support. But alas, that may not be forthcoming. Welcome to Washington.

From the NYT article:

The plan outlines a worst-case scenario in which more than 1.9 million Americans would die and 8.5 million would be hospitalized with costs exceeding $450 billion.

It also calls for a domestic vaccine production capacity of 600 million doses within six months, more than 10 times the present capacity.

On Friday, President Bush invited the leaders of the nation's top six vaccine producers to the White House to cajole them into increasing their domestic vaccine capacity, and the flu plan demonstrates just how monumental a task these companies have before them.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration's efforts to plan for a possible pandemic flu have become controversial, with many Democrats in Congress charging that the administration has not done enough. Many have pointed to the lengthy writing process of the flu plan as evidence of this.

Clearly, we need more vaccines. But what are the specific objections the Democrats have to a plan that is still being formulated? In the above-referenced "worst case scenario" the military would have to become involved and it would likely require quarantines, some of which may be in higher density and lower socio-economic areas. Will irresponsible charges of racism be invoked if that is the case? (The same will be true, to an even greater degree, in a relatively racially homogeneous and densely packed cities like Tokyo, Seoul, or Mexico City.)

As far as the writing process of the flu response plan, this is not something one does on the back of a cocktail napkin. Every major cabinet position in the government would be involved, as well as overturning or suspending the Posse Comitatus Act. Formulating a plan is going to take longer than a Christophe haircut. The fact that our occasionally syntactically challenged President held forth on this subject in a reasoned and eloquent fashion in his press conference is a sign of how seriously he takes this threat. The action our government takes may come not a moment too soon.


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