Tevi Troy has called out three political icons in a Politico essay — Bill Maher, Farrakhan and Glenn Beck — for irresponsible commentary about the swine flu virus and public health, and I applaud Troy for doing so.
Tevi Troy, who is now at the Hudson Institute and previously served as both Deputy Domestic Policy Advisor to GW Bush and then served as Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, supports the seriousness of President Obama’s calling the upcoming flu season a national emergency.
Troy writes in Politico:
What do Bill Maher, Louis Farrakhan and Glenn Beck have in common? Usually not much, but this flu season, they have all been irresponsible voices who could potentially constitute a greater public health threat than the H1N1 virus.
As we enter what could be a difficult flu season — President Barack Obama just declared a national emergency — we face a number of challenges to our public health infrastructure. Some of these challenges are typical and expected, such as the difficulties of distributing materials across a huge country with more than 300 million people in it or the complexities of producing in a short time frame a new vaccine that is safe and effective.
Others, however, are surprises, such as public skepticism from commentators like Maher regarding both public-safety measures like vaccines to prevent the spread of the illness and messages from public health officials. How elected leaders — and public commentators themselves — respond will determine our ability to be successful in facing the challenges of both seasonal and H1N1 influenza, as well as other potential biological events in the future.
As we look to the future, it is time to declare potential bio events a “neutral zone” — a place beyond politics that should be entered by both parties together.
This approach would be far more likely to grab Americans’ attention, as the public knows all too well that on most issues, our politicians are constantly at war. But on public health issues essential to the safety of the American people, we need elected leaders who understand the skepticism of citizens and reach out in a bipartisan way with an intelligent, informative, respectful message that helps turn hard government work on preparation and education into successful execution.
Tevi Troy is sounding a lot like Barack Obama on the public health front — or better yet, Obama is sounding a lot like Tevi Troy. . .and that’s a constructive step towards the kind of neutral zone that is needed in some parts of America’s policy establishment.
— Steve Clemons
Editor’s Note: Hat tip to intrepid news hound and TWN reader Daniel Lippman for forwarding Tevi Troy’s Politico article.