Swine Flu Crisis May Overshadow 100-Day Milestone
By Ben Pershing
Even for presidents, the best-laid plans can sometimes go awry. So as Wednesday's 100-day milestone approaches, watch closely to see whether the White House's carefully choreographed effort to tout the administration's accomplishments and lay the groundwork for more big-ticket initiatives is instead overshadowed by a public health crisis.
Swine flu has dominated headlines for the last two days, presenting President Obama with an unexpected challenge. The U.S. has declared a "public health emergency," though Janet Napolitano yesterday cautioned, "That sounds more severe than really it is." Administration officials did say they expect many more cases of the flu to be discovered in the coming days, which ensures that the focus on this crisis will only grow as the week progresses. Is there anything Obama can or should be doing to address the crisis that he isn't already? It doesn't appear so, but it does appear that his Wednesday prime-time press conference could end up being dominated by flu talk, which is certainly not how the White House drew it up.
The swine flu crisis and the rest of the world's problems didn't stop Obama from playing golf Sunday. The president's poll numbers are good enough that the White House presumably isn't too concerned that Obama's political enemies will take pictures like these and try to portray him as elitist or out of touch. At Sunday's press briefing on swine flu, Robert Gibbs was asked: "What if anything are we meant to read into the fact the President Obama decided to go golfing today? Is this part of your effort to reassure Americans that there's no need to panic?" Gibbs said he wouldn't "draw a direct conclusion" between the flu news and the golf outing, but that's our job in the press -- to read meaning into every single thing the president does. (By the way, Obama lost yesterday. Does that symbolize something?)
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