Friday, May 01, 2009

What ever you do don't panic

When there are any public crises the public look to their leaders for advice and to have their fears allayed. Hence the PR team backing Joe Biden, US Vice President, who have their work cut out at the best of times, have been trying to back track from a comment that basically says he would recommend people go no where near enclosed spaces. After a television appearance yesterday his spokesperson, Elizabeth Alexander, sent an e-mail to journalists trying to clarify the vice president’s remarks. According to USA Today, Alexander suggested that the specific question dealt with what Biden would tell a family member making an air trip to Mexico: “The advice he is giving family members is the same advice the administration is giving to all Americans: that they should avoid unnecessary air travel to and from Mexico,” she said. “If they are sick, they should avoid airplanes and other confined public spaces, such as subways.” But this is not actually the way the conversation went.

Biden was indeed asked: "if a member of your family came to you and said, ‘Look, I want to go on a commercial airliner to Mexico and back within the next week,’ would you think it’s a good idea?" But he went a little beyond his brief when answering "I would tell members of my family, and I have, I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now. It’s not that it’s going to Mexico; it’s that you’re in a confined aircraft. When one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft. That’s me. I would not be at this point—if they had another way of transportation—suggesting they ride the subway. So, from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you’re out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes that’s one thing; if you’re in a closed aircraft, a closed container, a closed car, a closed classroom, it’s a different thing" So basically he is saying don't leave your home unless to spend your time in open spaces, fields whatever but no closed, err, containers! Now to be honest it probably is the sort of advice any man or woman would like to give to their family and for them to be able to take; but the economic and social implications of doing so are huge. Basically if those who can afford to avoid human contact do so, little is bought and sold, more bankruptcies and so on. Hence the backtracking by Ms Alexander. But here is another problem, backtracking suggests deception and reinforces the notion that he made a mistake and so dents Biden's credibility. Whoops!

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