Joe Biden and the Swine Flu Shuttle

Oh, mama. Next week I have to head to DC from Cleveland on what by then I’m sure will be labeled the Swine Flu Shuttle. Cough. Cough. Hey, maybe I was a little quick yesterday to disavow designer face masks.

I was thinking about that this morning while chasing the treadmill for an hour or so. The local TV guy and gal kept showing the taped interview yesterday of Joe Biden opining about swine flu. Dr. Joe said, in effect, that he wouldn’t advise anyone going anywhere on a plane, train, subway, two-seater bike and so on. As anticipated, this caused an immediate shitstorm with those in the travel industry, public health officials and even with Joe’s boss, the Prez.

And things got worse when the VP’s communications guru issued a statement saying he really was only talking about travel to Mexico. Well, no. Liar, liar pants on fire.

Why can’t people — particularly those in senior positions in government, business, education and so on — just admit when they make a mistake like this? And then move on.

The fact is this: Biden said what people believe, including me. C’mon, let’s take a poll. Raise your hand if you believe that the air on an airplane is filled with germs — ready to grab you by the throat even under ideal circumstances. Counting. Give me a few seconds. OK. See. People believe it is true. Step on an airplane and step off with a cold, at best.

Now, Biden shouldn’t have said what he did. Most likely, it’s not true. The airline industry argues that air on an airplane is cleaner than in most public buildings. (Cough. Cough. I digress.)  But in any event, senior government officials shouldn’t be saying and doing things to undercut the economy — and create more panic here.

Gee. Thoughtful and effective communication does matter.

Making an abrupt transition here — if you want to see some young professionals in action who understand effective communication, stop by the Kent Student Center this afternoon. Teams of senior-level Kent State public relations students will be giving their presentations on a campaign to improve relationships between the university and the city of Kent. It’s a class project — but few PR firms could prepare and present a plan as effectively and professionally.

I’m planning to attend. And I hope the “clients” from Kent State and from the city pay attention. There is some big repair work — communication and otherwise — that needs to be done there following the events of last weekend.

And let’s hope we don’t have a repeat this weekend — as the university approaches the 39th anniversary of the event that so altered the reputation of Kent State and so substantially changed the lives of many students and others: the killing of four students at Kent, May 4, 1970.

I wrote about Kent State and May 4 a year ago. I’ve included it again here in case anyone is interested.

Good and important to remember the events of nearly four decades ago. Much better these days to celebrate the successes and the future of the students like the ones that will present their campaign proposals this afternoon.

Hope everyone has an enjoyable — and safe — weekend.

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2 responses to “Joe Biden and the Swine Flu Shuttle

  1. Nicely said. Your question about admitting mistakes and moving on is classic PR 101. Dr. Joe would be well advised to say, “Oops,” thereby disarming critics moving forward.

    But no; like so many others, he still hasn’t learned his lesson and will therefore be a source for much more material for the rest of this term.

  2. Alan,

    Thanks for your comment. Saying “oops” here would have been the end of the story, not the beginning. You would think that government officials would be aware of that — and most likely in the long run would get credit for the candor.

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