Friday, October 03, 2014


National Journal's Alex Roarty seems surprised That Ebola is now an issue in the midterms:
Ebola Scare, Secret Service Enter Campaign Politics

It's either tactically smart or desperately silly, but a North Carolina Republican is trying to use the week's biggest news items to attack President Obama.

The Secret Service's public humiliation and the country's first Ebola diagnosis -- topics that would appear at least one step removed from partisan warfare -- aren't ready-made issues for the campaign trail. But in roughly 24 hours, one candidate has managed to insert both into his own race.

Thom Tillis, the Republican Senate nominee from North Carolina, on Thursday called on President Obama to ban travel from Ebola-stricken countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, arguing that people from those countries could be vectors for the deadly disease. Just a day earlier, Tillis chided his opponent, Sen. Kay Hagan, and Obama for the Secret Service's litany of recent mistakes.

In both instances, the criticism made essentially the same point: The president can't keep America safe.

"How on earth can you protect the nation if you can't protect the White House?" he asked, according to an account of his speech Wednesday....
Roarty obviously hasn't noticed that turning Ebola, in particular, into a partisan issue is now utterly mainstream, as The Hill's Sarah Ferris reports:
Ebola is becoming an issue for the midterm election campaign, with several Republicans using the spread of the virus to the United States to criticize President Obama's leadership.

Republican lawmakers are accusing Obama of underplaying the threat. They say the national response to the discovery of an infected patient in Dallas has been woefully inadequate.

"I am concerned about it, and it's a big mistake to downplay it and act as if it's not a big deal," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. He said Obama officials are putting "political correctness" ahead of public health.

Conservatives, meanwhile, are hammering Obama for saying two weeks ago it was "unlikely" that Ebola could ever reach America....

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is pushing for the government to question all passengers coming to the United States from countries where Ebola is spreading to ensure they haven’t been exposed to the virus....

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) told The Hill on Thursday that the Obama administration could have prevented Ebola from entering the U.S. if State Department officials had been more vigilant against the threat....
Until a few minutes ago, the lead story at Fox Nation was a Washington Free Beacon rant by Matthew Continetti titled "The Case for Panic"; FN used the Beacon's subtitle as a title: "Incompetent Government + Corrupt Elite = Disaster." A sample:
Deadly, irrational, and determined, the intruder snuck across a weakened perimeter. Eluding capture, the intruder was detained only after missteps and close calls. The spin began soon after the threat was isolated. Information was selectively leaked. Half-truths and untruths were uttered. Responsibility was avoided; privileges and credentials asserted; authority reasserted. Trust us. Remain calm. Don’t panic.

This is the template of recent events. A mental case jumps the White House fence. He makes it to the East Room before he's tackled by an off-duty Secret Service agent. Initial statements turn out to be misleading or false. We discover that lapses in security are much worse than previously understood, that in recent memory the White House was sprayed with bullets, and that an armed man with a criminal record rode in an elevator with the president....

The elevator? It was in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where the president told the American people that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is not a threat to our country. President Obama said the chances of Ebola appearing in the United States are "extremely low." If a carrier somehow finds his way to the 50 states, "We have world-class facilities and professionals ready to respond. And we have effective surveillance mechanisms in place." Two weeks later, as Byron York points out, the president was proven utterly wrong.

... Not only do I disagree with the constant stream of soothing and complacent rhetoric from ... government and media. I also believe it is entirely rational to fear the possibility of a major Ebola outbreak, of a threat to the president and his family, of jihadists crossing the border, of a large-scale European or Asian war, of nuclear proliferation, of terrorists detonating a weapon of mass destruction. These dangers are real, and pressing, and though the probability of their occurrence is not high, it is amplified by the staggering incompetence and failure and misplaced priorities of the U.S. government. It is not Ebola I am afraid of. It is our government's ability to deal with Ebola....
I think, in a lot of these circumstances, we get into a toxic cycle. Republicans launch a full-scale partisan nuclear attack every single time there's a real or perceived lapse by this administration. The administration, playing defense, downplays the problem. Eventually, in some cases, the downplaying of the problem blows up in the administration's face. And the GOP transmits the nuclear launch codes again.

I think you have to separate the administration's ultimate actions from these moments of defensiveness. The White House tries to solve problems, and it does learn from mistakes. But by that time, Republicans have undermined the public's belief in the administration's trustworthiness to the maximum extent possible.

And now we're entering a period when we may have a number of cases of Ebola, and we may need to trust the authorities and take any warning they issue seriously. But Republicans don't want us to trust the authorities. And yet they want Ebola stopped. How will that happen with Republicans goading the public to a stance of non-cooperation?

I'm not saying the administration should be exempt from criticism. But there's a way to go about this. If you're just saying we need to restrict flyers coming in from West Africa, fine. (I'm generally a partisan, but I see a lot of merit in doing that.) But if your argument is "Barack Obama Bans Flights to Israel, But Not Flights From Ebola Affected Countries" (to quote a RedState headline), then you're not arguing on the merits -- you're trying to score cheap political points. (I should point out that that Israel flight ban was lifted a day and a half after it went into effect.)

Back in the Cold War days, we used to ask ourselves if we and the communists would stop fighting if aliens or a huge asteroid threatened to wipe out all life on Earth. In our current Cold Civil War, I think we see the modern, intramural answer to that question: no, in that case, we in the U.S. wouldn't stop fighting amongst ourselves.


UPDATE: What was I just saying? This guy writes for Breitbart:


Victor said...

So, now, those of us who survive ISIS and head-cuttings, will all die from the Ebola Virus?!?!?!

Look, I'm pretty sure that the people in leadership positions who are spreading the conservative bullshit probably don't believe a lot of it themselves - just trying to profit politically and financially - but I wonder how the end-user of that bullshit feels all day and night, in a constant state of helpless fear bordering on panic?

Philo Vaihinger said...

The partisan Republican bullshit you are looking at is going to be a real hindrance in getting the US to promptly and properly address the Ebola problem.

Specifically, Republican attacks coupled with Democratic denial of the reality of the threat will both work against us.

O has done better than any other pol that I know of in facing and daring to state the seriousness of the threat.

What do you imagine would happen if the worst case he envisioned, some 1.4 million infected by November, were to come to pass?

How the hell does anybody quarantine half a continent?

We and other capable nations need to hurry up and work harder in Africa, and our home authorities need to get our domestic medical professionals and related folks on the ball.

It's not getting here next month or next year.

It's getting here now.

William Miller said...

Re "the nine most terrifying words": Fine, Texas. You deal with it.

Ken_L said...

I don't think most conservatives actually worry much about Ebola (and they are correct not to). It's just another stick to beat the administration with. But why Obama leads with his chin so often is beyond me. Why can't he simply refer questions requiring expert professional knowledge - such as the risk of Ebola cases in America - to the relevant experts in the administration?

Yastreblyansky said...

Love that Matthew Boyle tweet. Wonder how the conservatives plan to deal with Ebola without any of that government. Will the Heritage Foundation and the former Blackwater send a team of mercenary biologists to Sierra Leone?

W James Casper said...

First thing we do is ban travel to and from Texas... #KeepAmericaSafe

Philo Vaihinger said...

That Breitbart tweet, exactly on point.

@ Mr. Casper, you'll have to close DC, too. Seen the news?

Steve M. said...

you'll have to close DC, too. Seen the news?

The jury's still out on that patient, last I checked. And even if he tests positive, there's no need to shut down the whole city. Here in NYC, they didn't even shut down Rockefeller Center when one of the anthrax letters was sent to NBC.