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Biden urges Americans to stay off planes, subways during swine flu outbreak. Oops, White House correction follows

Vice President Joe Biden, known for verbal excess, stepped on the Obama administration's talking points this morning when he suggested that Americans should stay out of confined spaces with other people -- like trains, planes and subways -- until the swine flu epidemic passes.

On the "Today" show, NBC's Matt Lauer asked the vice president why the federal government has not closed the border with Mexico and what advice the vice president would give to members of his own family. Here's what he said:

I would tell members of my family, and I have, I wouldn't go anywhere in confined spaces  now.... When one person sneezes, it can go all the way through the airplane. I would not be at this point, if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway.

That guidance is at direct odds with administration policy, which is that Americans WHO ARE SICK  should stay home and that institutions where folks gather -- from schools to sporting events -- should close IF THERE'S AN OUTBREAK of the H1N1 virus in their communities.

The last thing the White House wants is to inspire public panic that might not do anything to slow the epidemic but could also dampen prospects for economic recovery in key sectors like transportation and the hospitality business.

So within hours, the White House had put out a "clarification" of Biden's remarks, explaining that what the vice president meant to say was that only members of his family WHO ARE SICK should avoid confined spaces. As Biden press secretary Elizabeth Alexander put it:

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. If they are sick, they should avoid airplanes and other confined public spaces, such as subways. This is the advice the vice president has given family members who are traveling by commercial airline this week. As the president said just last night, every American should take the same steps you would take to prevent any other flu:  Keep your hands washed; cover your mouth when you cough; stay home from work if you're sick; and keep your children home from school if they're sick.

President Obama, who has worked valiantly to marshal federal resources without inspiring public panic, may have more to say about Biden's remarks later in the day.

In the meantime, the administration quickly trotted out two of its most calming voices to correct the gaffe.

Asked about Biden's remark, Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called this "a teachable moment" in which health professionals can inform the public -- including presumably the vice president -- on how to deal appropriately with the crisis without panic.

And Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who has been the administration's face of the swine flu crisis, said she guesses if Biden had it to do over again he'd insert the words "if you are sick."

Conceding for the first time that the federal government might close ports on U.S. borders if that is the advice of local health officials, Napolitano told MSNBC that Washington's overall message is unchanged: Let's not overreact. Let's take common-sense approaches.

Biden said recently that Team Obama had encouraged him to "just be Joe." With 94 swine flu cases now confirmed in 11 states, and with the vice president stepping all over the president's message in encouraging Americans to be prudent but not to panic, it may be time to rethink that strategy.

Ah, Joe, say it ain't so.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Get To Know Joe Biden And Know The Flakiness Of Your VP And The Shakiness Of Obamas Pick.
-In September 1987, Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign ran into problems when he plagiarized a speech by Neil Kinnock, who was then-leader of the British Labour Party.
- It was also discovered that, when he was a law student at Syracuse Law School, he had plagiarized a law review article. While the then-dean of the law school, as well as Biden’s former professor, played down the seriousness of the incident, they did find Biden drew “chunks of heavy legal prose directly from” the article in question. Biden said it was unintentional due to his not knowing the proper rules of citation, (after 4 years of college one should know the rules of citation) and Biden was permitted to retake the course after receiving a grade of F, which was later dropped from his record.
- When questioned by a New Hampshire resident about his grades in law school, Biden had inaccurately recalled graduating in the “top half” of his class when he actually graduated 76th from a class of 85, and he also falsely stated that he had received a full scholarship, and had earned three degrees. The truth is that he had received two majors, History and Political Science, and a single B.A degree, as well as a half scholarship based on financial need, not academic achievement .
-When he was confronted with these truths, Biden withdrew from the nomination race on September 23, 1987, saying his candidacy had been overrun by “the exaggerated shadow” of his past mistakes.
-Joe is also the guy who was appointed Stimulus overseer and could not remember the web site the next morning on national TV.
-Why has Israel’s Army radio reported that Senator Joe Biden told Israeli officials that they need to accept the idea Iran will acquire nuclear weapons?
-Why does Joe Biden, a past supporter of Israel, now support direct negotiations with Iran despite UN violations as to their nuclear program?

Kinda nice to know that you can be you, imperfect you, and still maybe even become VP of the United States someday. :)

During the campaign in an interview with Couric he cluelessly claimed: “When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened.’”

Er, here’s what really happened: Roosevelt wasn’t president when the market crashed in 1929. As for appearing on TV, it was still in its infant stages and wasn’t available to the general public until at least ten years later.

During the lone VP debate Joe Biden demonstrated more historical ignorance “Vice President Cheney’s been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history,” Biden said. “He has the idea he doesn’t realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that’s the executive — he works in the executive branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.”

Article 1 of the Constitution defines the role of the legislative branch, not the executive branch. You would think someone who has served 36 years in government – the same someone who is quick to remind others of his high IQ and longtime Senate Judiciary Committee chairmanship – would know better.

Remember Slow Joes Indian Slur?
During the campaign Joe Biden joked that in Delaware “you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”

Joe must go.

joe must go

Obama is the biggest joke of this country. He couldn't decide whether to close the Mexican/American border until the health officials say so. He has to wait until one of his family members became ill from the Swine flu in order to decide to close the border. It would be Americans' biggest tragedy and mistake to elect Obama to be the US President.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
President Obama
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