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There Are Still Horses In The Barn: The Inexplicable Obama Position On Border Closing

Thursday, April 30, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

With the president’s declaration at last night’s presser that closing the border with Mexico would be useless because the H1N1 virus is already here, and the adamant rejection of border closing by Joe Biden this morning and Secretary Napolitano’s refusal to even seriously entertain the possibility that such a closure should happen before a Senate committee yesterday, the Obama Adminstration is committed to allowing free entry of any mutation of the H1N1 that occurs in Mexico into the U.S.

“We need to be prepared to close the border with Mexico if the swine flu outbreak escalates further,” Senator John McCain told Secretary Napolitano. “I hope you’ll continue to revisit this issue of whether we need to close the border or not.”

McCain is clearly right. A CDC history of the Spanish flu –the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919– details that three “waves” of the disease rolled across the world, and mutations seemed to have occurred along the way. Refusing to undertake stricter border controls simply denies the reality that new and deadlier strains could emerge from the original epicenter of the outbreak which is Mexico. To borrow and correct the president’s analogy: Some horses have escaped the barn, but there may be many, many more horses still inside. Doesn’t it make sense to shut the door on them, or to at least close those doors enough so that only a few escape every now and then? From the CDC’s study:

In the 1918-1919 pandemic, a first or spring wave began in March 1918 and spread unevenly through the United States, Europe, and possibly Asia over the next 6 months (Figure 1). Illness rates were high, but death rates in most locales were not appreciably above normal. A second or fall wave spread globally from September to November 1918 and was highly fatal. In many nations, a third wave occurred in early 1919 (21). Clinical similarities led contemporary observers to conclude initially that they were observing the same disease in the successive waves. The milder forms of illness in all 3 waves were identical and typical of influenza seen in the 1889 pandemic and in prior interpandemic years. In retrospect, even the rapid progressions from uncomplicated influenza infections to fatal pneumonia, a hallmark of the 1918-1919 fall and winter waves, had been noted in the relatively few severe spring wave cases. The differences between the waves thus seemed to be primarily in the much higher frequency of complicated, severe, and fatal cases in the last 2 waves.

But 3 extensive pandemic waves of influenza within 1 year, occurring in rapid succession, with only the briefest of quiescent intervals between them, was unprecedented. The occurrence, and to some extent the severity, of recurrent annual outbreaks, are driven by viral antigenic drift, with an antigenic variant virus emerging to become dominant approximately every 2 to 3 years. Without such drift, circulating human influenza viruses would presumably disappear once herd immunity had reached a critical threshold at which further virus spread was sufficiently limited. The timing and spacing of influenza epidemics in interpandemic years have been subjects of speculation for decades. Factors believed to be responsible include partial herd immunity limiting virus spread in all but the most favorable circumstances, which include lower environmental temperatures and human nasal temperatures (beneficial to thermolabile viruses such as influenza), optimal humidity, increased crowding indoors, and imperfect ventilation due to closed windows and suboptimal airflow.

However, such factors cannot explain the 3 pandemic waves of 1918-1919, which occurred in the spring-summer, summer-fall, and winter (of the Northern Hemisphere), respectively. The first 2 waves occurred at a time of year normally unfavorable to influenza virus spread. The second wave caused simultaneous outbreaks in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres from September to November. Furthermore, the interwave periods were so brief as to be almost undetectable in some locales. Reconciling epidemiologically the steep drop in cases in the first and second waves with the sharp rises in cases of the second and third waves is difficult. Assuming even transient postinfection immunity, how could susceptible persons be too few to sustain transmission at 1 point and yet enough to start a new explosive pandemic wave a few weeks later? Could the virus have mutated profoundly and almost simultaneously around the world, in the short periods between the successive waves? Acquiring viral drift sufficient to produce new influenza strains capable of escaping population immunity is believed to take years of global circulation, not weeks of local circulation. And having occurred, such mutated viruses normally take months to spread around the world.

If the president wants to explain that the costs of shutting down the border are too high, that would be different. But it is simply not true that the United States would be just as exposed to the pandemic with an open versus a closed or partially closed border. Evey day that he does not act is another day of open invitation to the original virus or any of its mutations to make the trip north. France understands this, and is pressing the EU to suspend flight rom Mexico even though the flu is already on the European continent. Argentina and Cuba have already suspended flights from Mexico.

Has the president considered that not closing down the borders increases the risk that these and other countries will soon be restricting flights from America into their country. If we continue to define ourselves as “just like Mexico” vis-a-vis the H1N1, then the rest of the world can be expected to treat us accordingly.

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Toomey v. Specter (With Ridge and Huckabee Angles)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Pat Toomey was on the program today, and declared that no one would push him out of the primary including Tom Ridge should the former PA governor decide to get in.

I also asked him about Mike Huckabee –a huge critic of Club for Growth dating to the Club’s attacks on Huck during the primaries. Toomey acknowledged that the Club had made more than a few enemies over the years but also some very good friends, and that he hoped Mike Huckabee would support him.

It certainly creates an interesting question for Huck and his supporters: Turn the other cheek and help the pro-lifer, or sit on his and their hands as a big dose of payback. I don’t know how many Huckabee supporters there are in PA, but Toomey does need every conservative activist from day one to be helping him organize the state.

Update: Here is the transcript of our conversation.

HH: Joined now by former Congressman Pat Toomey, also used to run the Club For Growth. He’s a candidate for United States Senate in the state of Pennsylvania in the Republican nomination. Until yesterday, he was running against Arlen Specter. Today, he’s not, because Arlen Specter left the party. Pat Toomey, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

PT: Thanks for having me, Hugh, great to be with you.

HH: Now you know, six years ago, I endorsed Arlen Specter against you in the primary. I’m sure there are a lot of people like that now who are calling you up and saying come on the program. I’m sure you’re taking all former supporters of Arlen into the camp.

PT: I am absolutely welcoming everybody on board.

HH: Can you win?

PT: Oh, absolutely, Hugh. There’s no doubt in my mind. I think the contrast with Arlen Specter now is actually better in one important respect, which is that Arlen Specter has created a huge character and integrity issue. He just spent the last I don’t know how many months, including right through the end of last week crisscrossing Pennsylvania adamantly insisting and promising that he would never leave the Republican Party, that he was in this to stay, that he would not switch parties, and that it was vitally important that Republicans retain the 41 Senators so that they could have a filibuster to check the Democrats’ power. He took one look at a poll that showed he’d have a hard primary, and he just broke all those promises, abandoned everything, and proved that his only real priority is his own personal political prospects. I think that’s a compounding problem on top of the fact that he’s on the wrong side of issues for Pennsylvania general election voters, Hugh. [# More #]

HH: Pat Toomey, give us a little bio before we go there, because I want people to be grounded in who you are.

PT: Well, I’m a guy that grew up in a blue collar, working class family. I was, had the opportunity to start my own small business. I was in the restaurant business before I was elected to Congress. I served three terms in the U.S. House representing a Democrat-leaning district in Pennsylvania, the 15th, with Allentown and Bethlehem at the heart of the district. And I pledged to serve no more than three terms in the House. I honored that pledge. I ran against Senator Specter in 2004, and came within 1.6% of defeating him in the primary. When that didn’t work out, I endorsed him, and then went on to lead the Club For Growth, which has been a wonderful organization, as you know, Hugh, dedicated to economic freedom and the prosperity that comes only from economic freedom. And then when I saw this government take this really unbelievable lurch to the left, I decided that I had to try to stand in front of this freight train and turn things around, because Senator Specter was clearly, actively supporting the whole Obama agenda, and I think it’s a big mistake for America.

HH: How much money has he raised in the last five and a half, five years as a Republican from primarily Republicans?

PT: Oh, overwhelmingly from Republicans. Yes, he’s got about $7 million dollars.

HH: Is he going to give that back?

PT: Well, he ought to give that back, because it was all raised under the, obviously under the pretense, the promise that he would remain a Republican. And clearly, he has not been good for his word there, so he should give it back.

HH: Let me ask you about your time at Club For Growth. You know, you guys play hardball, and you win, and you throw hammers. But people remember that. Is that going to haunt you, Pat Toomey? For example, Mike Huckabee doesn’t much care for the Club For Growth, and I assume by extension, you.

PT: Well you know, that may be, and some people are not fond of the Club For Growth, but you know, we’ve got a lot of friends, too, people that we helped elect, people we helped send to Congress. And frankly, some of them are doing a great job, guys like Mike Pence and Jeff Flake and Jeb Hensarling in the House, and Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint in the Senate. So you know, I understand we have our detractors, but we’ve got a whole lot of fans in people who believe that Republicans ought to stand for limited government and economic freedom.

HH: Do you think Mike Huckabee will put that aside and come and work for you?

PT: Well, I don’t know. I haven’t spoken with Governor Huckabee about this. I’d love to have his support, but you know, that’s his call.

HH: Now some speculation Tom Ridge might jump into the primary now that Arlen Specter’s gone away. What do you think about that, Pat?

PT: Well, I don’t know. You know, I don’t know what to make of that. I’ve never heard Tom Ridge express any interest whatsoever in doing that, and I’ve seen the rumors, but I haven’t seen any comments from him that would suggest that he’s looking at that. Frankly, I think the head start that I have in this race, the funds that I’m already raising at a really pretty amazing pace, the network of supporters that I have who are really energized, I think I’m in a great position to win this primary against anybody.

HH: Is there anyone who would get in that would force you to get out?

PT: No, absolutely not.

HH: The website, by the way, for Pat Toomey is www.toomeyforsenate.com. Now let’s go back to the general election against Arlen Specter. I saw today Joe Biden saying he hopes that Arlen Specter is open to a compromise on card check. You know, that’s almost as disastrous for this country as socialized medicine, Pat Toomey.

PT: Right.

HH: Do you think Arlen Specter will turn his back on a position he’s held as recently as, you know, a month ago?

PT: Oh, he’s entirely capable of that. Let’s remember he was an original co-sponsor of the card check bill to deny workers a secret ballot. He then voted with all the Democrats to advance that bill. Then when he still thought he had a chance in the primary, he reversed himself on it. And now he’s given up on the primary. Well, organized labor’s going to come down on him like a ton of bricks and say look, if you want our support in the Democratic primary, and in a general election, you’ve got to be with us on this. So I think he is absolutely very, very susceptible to selling out American workers, frankly, by some kind of compromise, and including, possibly, denying the secret ballot.

HH: You know, the state of Pennsylvania has been that lure for presidential candidates in ’92, ’96, 2000, 2004, 2008. Republicans always think they can win, then they can’t win. Now this is an off year, so it’s a little bit different dynamic. But how do you win when Rick Santorum couldn’t win just a couple of years ago?

PT: Sure. Well, good question, but here’s the thing. A lot of Republicans win in a lot of races in Pennsylvania. The state senate in Pennsylvania has a huge Republican majority. The state house is just a few seats shy. We control most of the country courthouses across the state. And the reason that Rick Santorum lost in 2006 was mostly because it was 2006. That was the worst Republican year since 1974. And we lost moderates and liberal Republicans, too. I mean, Sue Kelly in New York, and Nancy Johnson in Connecticut, Charlie Bass in New Hampshire, they all lost races because the Republican brand was just in the tank. So the good news is I think things are turning around for Republicans, I think my message of ending the bailouts and fiscal discipline and ending the corrupt earmark process, I think that’s going to resonate, and Arlen Specter’s on the wrong side of all of those issue. So I feel great about my general election prospects.

- – – –

HH: Pat Toomey, we had an announcement by the WHO today, World Health Organization, pretty chilling. And now it’s being reported that France has asked the European Union to suspend all flights from Mexico and to Mexico. One Air France crew just simply refused to go to Mexico. Are there conditions under which you think in the middle of a pandemic we ought to be suspending cross-border, legal cross-border traffic by air, sea and land?

PT: Oh, I think there certainly could be conditions when that would be the prudent thing to do. I have to tell you honestly, I’m not quite sure, because I don’t feel I have the scientific knowledge about whether we’re at that point right at this moment, but absolutely there could be circumstances when we should suspend travel.

HH: A lot of people don’t want to talk about it, because they don’t want to be perceived as anti-Mexican. I’m not anti-Mexican. I’m just…

PT: Oh, this has nothing, my goodness, I would say this about any country in the world. If the scientists told us that there is serious danger of the spread of a pandemic that could cost the lives of many Americans, I think you’d have to consider that temporary restriction on any country where that was a serious risk.

HH: And that brings me to the question of new populations in America and in Pennsylvania. Mexican-Americans, Latino-Americans of other descent, of course black Americans are a minority that we have to reach out to. Can a Republican, and a conservative Republican that’s principled make some inroads into these huge Democratic constituencies in places like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and some other urban areas in Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey?

PT: Absolutely. There are many ways to make inroads with different ethnic minorities, different groups that traditionally have not necessarily been big supporters of Republicans. You know, it varies. Some of the ethnic groups are very socially and culturally conservative. Others, frankly, are trapped in schools that are failing their kids, and I and like minded Republicans have some great ideas for helping to give them choices and alternatives. I think we have clearly got a message that encourages entrepreneurs, and many of our immigrant communities and ethnic minority communities have lots of entrepreneurs that are struggling to live the American dream. I definitely think we are the party of really everybody who believes in limited government and personal freedom. And I’ll be reaching out to people of every ethnic background, every political persuasion. I’m going to be reaching for every vote that I can get.

HH: I’m not going to put you on the spot, but I hope you talk slowly when there’s Steelers fans around. I’m from Cleveland, Pat, so we don’t much care…

PT: (laughing) Now that’s not nice, Hugh.

HH: (laughing) Great to talk to you, we look forward to many more conversations between now and November of 2010. Pat Toomey, a pleasure, and welcome back to the primary race.

PT: Thanks for having me.

End of interview.

Level 5: Pandemic Is Imminent

Wednesday, April 29, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The WHO presser is fascinating. Four questions I wonder if anyone in the White House press corps will pose to the president tonight:

1. Have you or any member of the U.S. delegation who made the trip to the Mexico received any treatment for H1N1?

2. The WHO recommended that countries review the “social distancing maneuvers” available to it. One such maneuver would be the suspension cross-border traffic via land, sea and air from Mexico. Are there any conditions under which you would order such a suspension, and if so, what are those conditions?

3. Have you had any conversations with your staff and relevant agency personnel about the possibility of suspending cross-border traffic?

4. Under what conditions will you order that the patent on relevant drugs be broken?

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