Biden's blunder

April 30, 2009 2:08:56 PM PDT
It's not like everyone on the planet didn't know Joe Biden could be a loose cannon; that he shoots from the lip and, despite his intelligence, doesn't always say the wisest thing.

He'd been pretty good for the most part - at least for the first 100 days of the Obama Administration.

Then he went and talked - off script and clearly off message.

In an interview this morning, the Vice President said that he'd urge his family not to fly on an airplane or ride in a subway. Too many people sneezing that could contaminate others with swine flu, was his logic.

It's not that lots of people don't think that could happen - because they do. It's that it flies in the face of the facts and adds to the culture of panic that has enveloped so many Americans over the swine flu.

(By the way, the World Health Organization today stopped calling it "swine flu," referring to the disease out of deference to pigs by its medical name H1N1.)

Have we - and by "we" I mean the media - helped foster this attitude? We as an industry are not without fault. (Although in defense of my shop, Eyewitness News, we have consciously tried NOT to create a panicked sense in any of our stories, and, in fact, in last night's coverage, we had Jim Dolan offer some sober perspective on the flu and how this current outbreak isn't all that dangerous.)

Anyway, the proverbial stuff hit the fan after Mr. Biden's interview. Blistering criticism of the Vice President came from all quarters, including the travel industry and even some in the White House, who quickly had to backpedal from Mr. Biden's statements.

Meanwhile, the outbreak continues. The World Health Organization now confirms - and the numbers change hourly - about 240 cases in a dozen countries. Here in the U.S., there are 131 cases in 18 states.

Sense of panic? No politician wants to be on the wrong side of the outbreak, so some have taken drastic measures, like closing schools. There are nearly a quarter of a million students in 16 states that have no school this week.

Mexico continues to be the ground zero of this outbreak - and most of the people who have been contaminated are in fact somehow connected with either a trip to Mexico or exposure to people who went there. And that includes tonight a senior White House staffer, who traveled as part of the advance team last month for Energy Secretary Steven Chu. He began to feel ill two weeks ago; he tested negative, but three members of his family have tested positive.

And the World Bank says one of its employees has the swine flu, after a business trip to Mexico earlier this month.

We'll have the latest on the outbreak, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, two new books making news tonight.

The first is about Alex Rodriguez, and it says A-Rod began using steroids back in high school.

The book - written by Selena Roberts, the Sports Illustrated writer and former New York Times reporter who first broke the story about A-Rod's steroid use, also suggests Rodriguez didn't stop using steroids when he joined the Yankees. The slugger insists he did.

The other book is by Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former Presidential candidate John Edwards. The book is about her battle with cancer, but the headlines come from her revelations about her husband's affair. Mrs. Edwards says the former Senator told her about his affair just days before declaring his candidacy for President in 2006. She says she asked him not to run in 2008, to protect the family from public scrutiny.

He ran anyway.

"He should not have run," she writes.

Also at 11, a recession-era story about the increase in bartering -- from goods to services. Marcus Solis has our story tonight.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Scott Clark with the night's sports, and Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

By the way, check out my pal Lee's new weather blog on our website. CLICK HERE.

BILL RITTER


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