Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, April 28th, 2009.

Specter Switching Parties?

Congress, Democratic Party, Republican Party

If this is true, it would be huge — CNN is reporting that Sen. Arlen Specter has switched parties. That means when Al Franken finally takes his seat in the Senate the Dems will have 60 votes.

Here’s Chris Cillizza reporting the same thing. Looks like it’s a “go.”

That means, assuming Dems vote together (a big if), the Dems could break GOP filibusters that prevent vital bills from being brought to the full Senate for a vote.

I take it Specter, who is up for re-election in 2010, made the move to avoid a defeat in his primary next year. Republicans were throwing their support behind the more conservative former Rep. Pat Toomey, even though (I’m told) Toomey has little hope of winning a general election unless he’s running against a mollusk.

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Unserious About Flu

Obama Administration

The World Health Organization announces we may be on the edge of a global flu pandemic. Americans across the political spectrum immediately set about doing what what we do best — blame each other.

When news got out that the Obama Administration was slow to learn about the disease threat, righties held that up as proof of incompetence. On some rightie blogs word that the flu came from Mexico caused a great cry to toughen up border patrols. Apparently, flu can only be carried by people without proper documentation.

Fred Thompson woke up for a few minutes to charge that President Obama is using the flu threat for political gain.

Lefties had just as much fun pointing out that congressional Republicans (nudged by Karl Rove) insisted that epidemic preparedness appropriations be struck from the stimulus bill.

The truth is there’s plenty of blame to share. Part of the reason the Obama Administration was slow to respond is that the Department of Health and Human Services is headless. And it is headless because Republicans are holding up the confirmation of Kathleen Sebelius for petty ideological reasons that have nothing to do with the secretary job to which she is nominated (e.g., she supports the work of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller). Because there is no Secretary at HHS, 20 other top positions at the department are unfilled. Blame Republicans, not the Obama Administration, for that.

(Naturally, Concerned Women for America and Glenn Beck think the swine flu news is just a tactic to confirm the Sebelius nomination.)

However, if you look back over the past few years, you can find politicians on both sides of the aisles of Congress who voted to shortchange epidemic preparedness. So let’s get the finger pointing out of our systems and think about what might be ahead.

Swine flu may or may not be something to panic about, yet. Those of us who remember the Great Swine Flu Panic of 1776 1976 have reason to be skeptical. But there’s an article about the Panic by Patrick Di Justo at Salon, and by his account the Panic was an extreme overreaction to a minor, contained outbreak of flu. What we’ve got going on now already is a much bigger deal. See also a history of Asian flu pandemics at and Eugene Robinson, “Worth Worrying About.”

My understanding is that it’s impossible to know how dangerous, or not, this flu really is. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take precautions until we find bodies in the streets, of course. For now, wash your hands a lot and try to stay out of densely packed crowds.

And also, people, can we get serious about, you know, taking care of the nation instead of just scoring points on each other? Let’s make an effort.

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