Crony in charge of protecting us from killer flu
Bush's chronic cronyism is finally getting attention. Here's another to add to the list. (Simonson pictured on right)
Remember that time – when was it? – oh, a few weeks ago – that a hurricane wiped out New Orleans? And remember how the feds – uhh – made a disaster out of the disaster? And remember how the guy in charge of FEMA – Crony Brown – wasn't qualified? Remember how Bush gave him the job because he was a pal of a pal – or maybe they met at a church pot-luck supper one time? So Bush figured that a guy who used to run horse races would be real good at running disasters? Well, I'm not going to walk you down Memory Lane here – Memory Lane is still under water, anyway – but I wanted to refresh your memory about that before I tell you about another crony. Another one, that is, besides Harriet Miers. I'm sure you know by now that health experts are predicting a worldwide killer flu outbreak. Could be next week. Could be next year. This is the avian flu we're talking about. This flu is the stuff that Stephen King books are made of. It will make Katrina look like a day at the beach. It's expected that millions worldwide will die, including a few million Americans. It's a small world, after all. Killer viruses get around. So. You know this. I know this. There's even some evidence that President Bush knows this. After all, two weeks ago he said the military should be used to quarantine sick people when this flu hits. (Note to Bush: Two things. Quarantines are handled by state and local officials. Also, WHAT military? We have no soldiers to spare, remember?) But here's the thing. Bush's point man in charge of making sure America is ready for the killer flu is – uhh – how do you say it? – oh, I know – a CRONY. Yes! Crony Simonson is his name. Actually, it's Stewart Simonson. And he's the Michael Brown of the killer flu. His actual title is Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services. You, as an American, might ask this: Just how is Stewart Simonson qualified to protect us when the killer flu hits? Is he a doctor, perhaps? Or a public health expert? Well, not exactly. Actually, he's a lawyer. Really! Before he was put in charge of the nation's medical emergencies, he was a lawyer for Amtrak. Where better to prepare oneself to manage a major disease pandemic than at a train company? It was at Amtrak that Simonson became a crony. He was pals with Amtrack chief Tommy Thompson, who was pals with George Bush. So naturally George Bush appointed a train exec to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. And naturally Thompson brought his pal Simonson along. And even though Thompson isn't at HHS any longer, Simonson still is – and he's in charge of the killer flu. I don't know. Perhaps I'm being too harsh. Maybe being a choo choo train lawyer is all the experience needed to deal with the coming plague. In fact, maybe the killer flu will be kind of like – uhh – I know! – like an express train! It will, after all, barrel through the country like a high-speed locomotive. Who better than a lawyer to protect those in its path. Look! It's a bird, it's a train, it's Super Crony! Beth Quinn's column appears on Monday. Talk to her at 346-3147 or at email@example.com.