Thursday, October 06, 2005

Float and flush

The Bush suggestion at his press conference Monday that the military was the public health weapon of choice to combat bird flu is getting a lot of press, some of it pretty negative. CNN 's story also had a particularly unflattering picture of George (see right). I've noticed the public portrayal of political figures often is an index of their standing. We can hope.

CNN and other newspapers (e.g., The Boston Globe) quoted Dr. Irwin Redlener, associate dean of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and director of its National Center for Disaster Preparedness, that Bush's suggestion was "dangerous." Pretty strong words for an academic.
Giving the military a law enforcement role would be an "extraordinarily Draconian measure" that would be unnecessary if the nation had built the capability for rapid vaccine production, ensured a large supply of anti-virals like Tamiflu and not allowed the degradation of the public health system.

"The translation of this is martial law in the United States," Redlener said.
The extreme right wing (libertarian) Cato Institute also was critical:
And Gene Healy, a senior editor at the conservative Cato Institute, said Bush would risk undermining "a fundamental principle of American law" by tinkering with the act, which does not hinder the military's ability to respond to a crisis.

"What it does is set a high bar for the use of federal troops in a policing role," he wrote in a commentary on the group's Web site. "That reflects America's traditional distrust of using standing armies to enforce order at home, a distrust that's well-justified."

Healy said soldiers are not trained as police officers, and putting them in a civilian law enforcement role "can result in serious collateral damage to American life and liberty."
He might add it is also fruitless. If you live in community or region X and the rumor is loose you will be quarantined, a good proportion of your neighbors will head for the hills before you can say "Karl Rove." The hammer will fall (as it did in Katrina) on those who didn't get the word or couldn't leave. Historically "quarantines" of this type have translated some of the worst nativist instincts of our country into disproportionate burdens on minorities and immigrants. Expect the same here.

The lesson Bush learned from Katrina was that here was yet another instance with a military solution. The lesson most of the rest of us learned from Katrina was that the Bush Administration was a bunch of incompetent clowns, who, in Lyndon Johnson's wonderful description about Gerald Ford, "couldn't dump shit out of a boot if they had it by the heel."

Bush was ready for the question and spent almost five minutes on the topic. He had thought his answer out ahead of time and was not speaking off the top of his head. He was floating an intention. It floated all right. Time for us to flush it down with the rest of his intentions.