John Nichols /The Nation pushes bogus flu pandemic preparedness issue; distraction from Obama admin, Dem failures
John Nichols of The Nation offers "GOP Know-Nothings Fought Pandemic Preparedness" (link). Sens. Arlen Spector and Susan Collins fought the addition of around $900 million for flu pandemic preparedness to the stimulus plan. Now, Nichols is disreputably trying to tie that into the current possible flu crisis, and he's getting some help from his friends (link).
Yet, the issue is bogus for various reasons: neither Spector nor Collins oppose spending on preparedness, they just didn't want it in a bill that was supposedly about stimulating the economy rather than just about everything the Dems and Congress in general want to spend money on. There are general spending bills and narrowly-focused bills available for such purposes. Further, even as he bashes them, Ryan Powers of ThinkProgress quotes Collins and Spectors - both more friends of the Democrats than not - as in favor of spending money on preparedness. 
"All those little porky things that the House put in, the money for the [National] Mall or the sexually transmitted diseases or the flu pandemic, they're all out."
A slightly low-ball question for a Dem would involve reading that quote, getting the Dem to condemn it, and then pointing out who said it.
There might also be fiscal year and related funding issues here: even if money for preparedness had been in the stimulus bill, how much of it would have been disbursed by now? That would be a good question to ask someone pushing this line. And, those familiar with accounting issues might want to look into whether the current funding flows for preparedness are meeting the needs of the agencies involved.
And, if flu preparedness was such a vital issue to the Democrats - David Obey is presented as an oracle when it was much more likely that no such pandemic would surface - why weren't they banging on the table night and day demanding an emergency bill? That would be a good question to ask them: why didn't you raise this issue until now, why not two weeks ago when an emergency bill could have been rushed through?
Another good question to ask is why isn't Janet Napolitano willing to greatly ramp up border security to prevent sick people - including those who are infected but not visibly sick - crossing our borders legally or illegally? Why wasn't the Obama administration closely monitoring the situation in Mexico from near the very start?
UPDATE: Collins says through her spokeswoman (link):
...Senator Collins has led hearings on pandemic flu preparedness, worked on “bioshield” legislation and funding, and helped strengthen our nation’s preparedness for a pandemic flu... Claims that she is opposed to increased funding for pandemic flu research are blatantly false and politically motivated. In fact, in December 2008, Senator Collins joined in a letter to Senate leaders requesting a $905 million increase for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund at the Department of Health and Human Services... There is no evidence that federal efforts to address the swine flu outbreak have been hampered by a lack of funds.
 thinkprogress.org/2009/04/27/gop-cut-flu-funding quotes Collins:
"I think everybody in the room is concerned about a pandemic flu. But does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill? No. We should not."
"[$780 million for pandemic flu preparedness is out of the stimulus bill]. Very important projects, I took the lead along with Tom Harkin on some massive funding for pandemic flu, but it belongs in our regular appropriations bill."