Republicans have plenty of problems to deal with from news from the past 24-48 hours. I’m going to center my focus around the swine flu infections because it provides an interesting related topic to most of them.
Republicans have spent some of their energy the past two years denouncing any efforts to plan or prepare for a possible influenza epidemic, even though the probability of one occurring continues to mount. It’s an offshoot of their anti-science agenda and it’s left the country in a worse state than it otherwise should be in. As cases of swine flu infections continue to increase, most Americans are rightfully worried about the topic. The swine flu can obviously be transferred from swine to humans, something that isn’t terribly shocking in an of itself if you’ve paid attention to how influenze evolves. The scary question now, and in any potential influenze epidemic, is how transferable is the flu from person to person? What is the rate of infection between people? The higher that rate, the more strained our health management system becomes. Side-topic: if it were actually a health-care system, people might be less worried.
One shameful aspect of this story is the actions of Maine’s Senator Susan Collins, a self-styled “moderate”. I’ve argued for a number of years now that many elected officials aren’t “moderate” in the sense that they once were or in ways that are relevant in today’s political climate. For instance, how “moderate” is it for Sen. Collins to extoll her efforts to remove a $900 million pandemic preparedness proposal from President Obama’s recovery bill? Further, how “moderate” is it for Sen. Collins to have removed any record of doing so from her website? Either she believes she did the morally right thing in preventing some “wasteful spending” from making it through the Congress or she doesn’t. Now that we have a potential epidemic on our hands, she isn’t, though she was even a few short days ago. That isn’t principled and it isn’t moderate. She was sucking up to the extremist Cons in her party until it became painfully obvious that she would be rightfully targeted by a majority of the public for doing so. What happens if the outbreak spreads and real people end up dying and the economy further suffers? How proud will Sen. Collins be of her anti-spending stance then?
Another shameful aspect of this story is the lack of a Health and Human Services Secretary. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius was nominated months ago, but the extremist, obstructionist, ‘Party of No’ had placed an unwarranted hold on her nomination due to her pro-choice stance. That hold was in place until today, when the Senate suddenly moved her nomination forward and approved her. Again, a group of extremist Con Senators were doing their best to placate their extremist anti-woman base by denying Gov. Sebelius’ nomination until it looked like it would be very politically stupid to continue to do so. Sec. Sebelius didn’t gain any special skills overnight. None of her views changed. Neither did those of the Senators holding her nomination back. Sec. Sebelius won’t be running around the country forcing women to have abortions that they don’t want to have. The Con Senators were simply more interested in proving how ideologically pure they were; they were determined to show the American people that the government really doesn’t work, dammit, until a potential crisis erupted.
This behavior is disgusting. Again, if Americans end up dying and if the rest of us end up suffering due to any lack of emergency preparedness that otherwise would have been in place or due to the lack of leadership of a Health Secretary, the ramifications for the extremists shouldn’t be pretty. Already a weak regional party, they will reduce Americans’ confidence in their ability to handle anything above tying their own shoes. And they’ll have only themselves to blame.
Isn’t it amazing what a little crisis can do?