Politicians cannot control political commentators — nor should they. But on this issue, elected officials of the left and the right need to band together, reach out to thought leaders outside government and recognize that their supporters are skeptical of the opposing party, just as the opposing party faithful is skeptical of them. This skepticism has consequences for national readiness.
This means political leaders of all stripes must be humble. For instance, some Americans are skeptical of Obama’s swine flu messaging, just as many liberal activists were of President George W. Bush. One remedy, perhaps, is for Obama to stand up with Republican leaders like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky or House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio. McConnell, in fact, made an offer along these lines on ABC on Sunday, saying, “If they need anything additionally from Congress, I know we’ll be happy to provide it, on a totally bipartisan basis.” We need leaders to continue to issue a bipartisan message of cooperation at the national level — as McConnell just did — and at the individual level, as well, informing people about what they can do to limit the spread of infection.