Joe Biden went on the Today Show this morning and very calmly explained that you are going to die from swine flu if you don't lock yourself in a safe room now.

Biden told Matt Lauer that he has advised his family members not to travel on airplanes, cars, subways, or go to any "confined" spaces, including schools. That sentiment, which is rather at odds with Barack Obama's measured advice last night that everybody wash their hands and cover their mouth when they cough, has provoked a shitstorm. It's almost as though Biden has become such a connoisseur of gaffes that he couldn't resist the opportunity to commit a formally exquisite, potentially panic-inducing one when the opportunity presented itself.

Biden's comments were in response to a question from Lauer about why we haven't closed the border with Mexico. A normal person in the vice president's situation would have said something along the lines of: "Well, because things aren't that bad yet, and our scientists are telling us that it wouldn't help." Biden went the other way: Close the border with Mexico? You're so naive. We're way past that, man. Don't you see? Closing the border with Mexico won't stop the scythe of death that is sweeping across this nation—it's too late. It's too late!


Instead of closing the border, Biden recommends living out a contemporary version of The Decameron: Get out to the country and wait out the plague. "If you're out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes, that's one thing. If you're in a closed aircraft, or closed container, or closed car, or closed classroom, it's another thing."

Within hours of the Today Show appearance, Biden's office released a statement asserting, falsely, that his advice was merely what the president had been saying all along: "That [Americans] should avoid unnecessary air travel to and from Mexico. If they are sick, they should avoid airplanes and other confined public spaces, such as subways."

The beauty of Biden's penchant for saying unbelievably stupid things is that the more he does it, the less seriously people take him, and the more he can relax and just be the crazy uncle in the White House. This episode will likely not cause too much lasting harm, simply because the fact that Biden is a serial exaggerator is already so widely understood. After his bone-chilling announcement, Biden laughed it up a little with Lauer about the fact that he didn't make People magazine's list of Barack's Beauties. So it's pretty clear that he's not to be taken seriously. Which seems fine by him.