Debating Swine Flu: The Politics of the Disease

Bloggers on swine flu, mass hysteria, SARS, bird flu, Obama, Biden, and Winnie the Pooh.


Our daily look at stories and topics that are lighting up the Internets:

The Administration's Response

Swine flu is freaking everyone out, and more than a few bloggers are directing ire at the administration's handling of the outbreak. Today's ire-attracting award goes to Doctor/Vice President Joe Biden, seen here being bashed by The View, who had some panic-inducing words for Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show (video). Press releases denouncing what Biden said weren't long in coming, which some bloggers think symbolizes the absurdity of D.C. lobbying. David Rothkopf advises: "If the Vice President has become a Howard Hughes like germ-a-phobe, then perhaps he might want to consider going all the way and trying out reclusiveness for a while." Other's turned their attention to Obama's prime-time press conference last night, in which the president spoke on the disease. "Talking about the flu pandemic, Obama radiated calm," Mike Madden writes. This liberal blogger summarizes the next steps the government is taking on the swine flu, and what you should be doing about it.

Closing the Border?

The scare over swine flu is infecting the immigrant debate, writes this liberal blogger. And some reactions to Obama's press conference last night are a case in point. Conservative Mark Krikorian writes on the president's response. These are among his most partisan words: "The lefties have gotten their knickers in a twist at the mere mention of using the border for protection against the spread of disease, and especially the idea that Mexican immigrants might have contributed to the spread." Liberal Robert Schlesinger argues: "The fact is that globalization not only abets the spread of the flu but also means that no one country can battle it." Alex Koppelman thinks it's too simplistic to think that closing one border could make a difference. "Every  border, in every country, matters," he writes. Hugh Hewitt thinks Obama's full of bologna (as do McCain and many more conservatives). Meanwhile, Charles Brown connects the dots between air pollution in developing countries and susceptibility to the disease.

The Hysteria

Now we get to the good part: Are we overreacting? A whole host of bloggers think so. Conservative Dan Perrin is all about getting sick: "I want the Swine Flu because as far as I can tell, the mortality rates are equal to or less than regular flu. And I want the immunities that getting the flu will give me, and I hope my whole family gets it too." Liberal Dan Pashman believes "swine flu will soon take its place in the Pantheon of Stillborn Pandemics," just like SARS and avian bird flu before it. B. Jeffrey Madoff is scared to breathe, little less take a walk outdoors given the numbers on the air quality index. James Ridgeway thinks we overreacted to bird flu, which isn't to say he's not worried about our current vulnerability. Michael Fumento is confident that talk of pandemic is a whole load of bs, as is Ron Paul, who thinks the disease is an excuse for government overreach. On the other side, Daniel Nasaw present the news that's much less comforting, as does Daniel Politi here. Scared enough to do something about the flu yet? Here's how to take precautionary measures against the disease and still look cool (slideshow).

... Meanwhile ...

Winnie the Pooh gets paranoid about Piglet... Swine flu fears are changing Catholic communion in Chicago... The culture wars cometh... And GOP robocalls against Arlen Specter have already begun in Pennsylvania.