Monday, 29 December, 2003

Politicians' response to mad cow scare

In a case of grasping at straws that would be worthy of The Onion if it wasn't so pathetic, Democratic Presidential hopefuls are trying every possible way to blame the current administration for mad cow disease and make points with beef producers.  They're smart enough not to come right out and say "Bush is responsible for the sick cow," and in fact skirt the issue because the cow in question was imported during the Clinton administration.  But their comments would have you believe that the Bush administration is the culprit.  Howard Dean's sound bite is typical:

You can't blame the President because a cow came down with BSE [mad cow disease], but you can blame the Bush administration for a lot of what's going to happen to beef farmers over the next couple of weeks. 

When in fact we don't know what the fallout will be.  Domestic response has been calm.  Asian markets have slapped a ban on U.S. beef, which is an understandable precaution and probably won't last long.  Most European markets banned U.S. beef years ago due to hormones, steroids, and genetic engineering concerns.  The net effect on the U.S. beef market will most likely be small and short term.  Not that reality ever stopped political posturing.  In a statement that I thought was uncharacteristically stupid, Dean said:

I haven't verified this so this isn't part of my official platform yet ... I am told that testing every single cow (that is slaughtered) costs an average of three cents extra per pound of meat.  If that's true, we ought to do it.

He should know better than to say something that he hasn't verified.  I thought he'd learned that lesson with his "Bush knew about 9-11" comment.  Note also that he kind of glosses over that little three cents per pound increase that will have to be passed on to consumers.

Dean isn't the only one trying to make points here.  Richard Gephardt hopped on the liberal high horse calling for country-of-origin labeling, and a typical "us against them" comment:

We need a president who is committed to the right of American consumers to know where their meat is coming from and not to the huge special interests that are fighting to keep safety regulations out of our food.

Not to be outdone, John Kerry has called for federal aid for farmers who suffer financial loss from the mad cow scare and Dennis Kucinich announced that he will introduce legislation next month that prohibits slaughtering "downer" cattle (those too sick to or injured to walk) for food.  Joseph Lieberman, the only mostly rational of the Democratic hopefuls, has been thankfully silent on the issue.

I don't know if I can bring myself to listen to the news for the next 10 months.