Tales from the Trail

First Draft: CDC’s Besser does “The Full Ginsburg”

April 27, 2009

FLU/USA-CASESDr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been everywhere in the media over the last several days, talking about swine flu. His calm demeanor and practical advice — cover your cough, wash your hands — showed up on every major television network this morning. It seemed like he was live, simultaneously, on several of them.

In some Washington circles, this kind of media blitz is known as “The Full Ginsburg.”

For those with long memories, when sex was the biggest scandal in the U.S. capital, William H. Ginsburg had 15 minutes of fame as Monica Lewinsky’s attorney. He represented the former White House intern in 1998 when she was called to testify about her relationship with then-President Bill Clinton. The case ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment.

But when Lewinsky was flavor-of-the-month in Washington, Ginsburg controlled access to her, and that made him much in demand. He was an almost constant media presence, especially on morning television. In an age before tweets and blogs, when using the Internet was considered novel for much of official Washington, Ginsburg got coverage simply by showing up.

Times change and the world has changed, and a sex-and-lying scandal seems almost diverting compared to the possibility of a flu pandemic, Somali pirates and deep economic turmoil.

Besser is not the only voice on the swine flu situation. President Barack Obama speaks to the National Academy of Sciences this morning and the disease outbreak is expected to be mentioned there. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano explained that the U.S. declaration of a public health emergency was needed for free up government money and resources to tackle the problem.

Elsewhere in Washington, diplomats from 17 of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas polluters — including the United States — gather at the State Department to discuss the fight against climate change. On Capitol Hill, the Senate scheduled a vote to end a Republican roadblock against an anti-fraud bill and a House committee considers the status of trade with Cuba.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Mike Theiler, Dr. Richard Besser (R) makes remarks to the media as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano listens at a briefing on swine flu outbreak, April 26, 2009

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