The White House is calling it a formality. For unconvinced right wing bloggers, it’s the first step in enacting martial law. Obama’s decision to declare the swine-flu outbreak a national emergency -- a move designed to expedite disaster plans should hospitals get overwhelmed -- has provoked feverish debate. Was the president’s declaration really necessary? (Watch coverage of Obama's H1N1 emergency declaration)
This isn’t just a formality: "The stakes just got raised with this proclamation," says James G. Hodge Jr., a health law and ethics professor at Arizona State University, quoted in The Washington Post. "Broader powers of the federal government are now authorized to respond to the emerging outbreak."
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It sounds hysterical, but it’s the right call: Sure, some are terming this "fear-mongering," says James Joyner in Outside the Beltway. "And it’s true that this is neither 'epidemic' nor an 'emergency' in any ordinary sense...," but, regrettably, these are the alarmist words a President must invoke "to bypass the bureaucratic rules preventing faster dissemination of the vaccine."
This is Obama’s Katrina and he’s just pre-empting criticism: Given the drastic shortfalls of the vaccine, says Boston Herald editor Jules Crittenden in his personal blog, people are already calling swine flu Obama’s Katrina: "When you have a disaster looming, you need to look like you’re doing something ... And when it’s over, everyone is going to want to know whether the president did everything he could to limit the damage." Sorry, but this is called "covering your behind."
It’s a wise move, even if it will trigger anxiety: Obama’s decision was a cautious step, says Brian Walsh in Time, "not unlike declaring an emergency before a hurricane hits landfall." But given the government’s spotty response to the crisis so far, I’m not reassured. National vaccine shortages and freshly worried parents are a "recipe for confusion and frustration."
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