15 Oct 2007

To Walk With Kings, Nor Lose the Common Touch

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Apparently, if you’re a member of the party of America’s urban elites and you need to visit (shudder!) a fly-over Red State and rub elbows with the Common People, you take care to be immunized for infectious diseases.

My Way News:

It got the GOP’s engines revving – a Democratic official suggesting staffers get immunized for several diseases before heading south from Washington and into the Red State wilds of NASCAR country to conduct research at a pair of races.

The reaction on both sides illustrates just how valuable candidates for elected office consider the votes of NASCAR fans who pack grandstands by the thousands every weekend and the donations of business leaders who spend millions to sponsor the sport.

It started last month, when an official with the House Committee on Homeland Security suggested that staff aides get immunizations before visiting health facilities at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway and North Carolina’s Lowe’s Motor Speedway, where the Bank of America 500 was run Saturday.

In an e-mail, a staffer who works for committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., noted an “unusual need for whomever attending to be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B,” as well as “the more normal things – tetanus, diphtheria, and of course, seasonal influenza.”

The note didn’t explain why the committee saw such concern. It didn’t mention NASCAR or the races at the tracks at all. But the implication was enough to draw a snarky complaint from Republican Rep. Robin Hayes, whose district includes Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

“I have never heard of immunizations for domestic travel, and … I feel compelled to ask why the heck the committee feels that immunizations are needed to travel to my hometown,” wrote Hayes.

Thompson responded to Hayes that such immunizations are “are recommended for public safety professionals working in areas such as hospitals, holding areas and similar locations.” But the staffers were only scheduled to visit a few health care facilities – not work at them.

“What do they know about NASCAR that we don’t?” said Dr. David Weber, a professor of medicine and public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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