Secretary Napolitano is not the most confidence-inspiring figure in the new Administration, having already presided over the embarrassing memo alerting the country's law enforcement agencies of a looming threat from right wing extremists, demonstrating a completely flawed understanding of how the 9/11 killers entered the country, and banishing terrorism from the language of Homeland Security. Now she's on center-stage, and her first deer-in-the-headlights statements on the swine flu mark her as indecisive in a job that counts as its most important element the capacity for calm but decisive action that anticipates events rather than reacting to them after the fact.
Hong Kong has triggered its most stringent rules for air travelers. The European Union is urging its citizens not to travel to Mexico or the United States. Russia is taking similar steps.
But not the United States, which has thousands of miles of border to monitor and regular flights in and out of many Mexican cities. If the flu mutates to an even deadlier form, it will be too late to recall the hundreds of thousands of travelers who will have entered the country.
A whole lot of "monitoring" is underway, but the waiting-upon-events that legislators often indulge in is exactly the opposite approach required when hours and even minutes matter. If the flue turns deadly, Obama's "first one hundred days" will forever be marked by a remarkably casual indeed almost indifferent response to a public health crisis that no matter how improbable had been recognized as a potential catastrophe from April 24 forward.
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