We’re at that stage of the election cycle when the redundancy and cynicism of campaigns really begins to grate on those forced to pay a lot of attention to them–e.g., reporters. Clearly MSNBC’s excellent Irin Carmon reached the limit of her endurance during a rally for Mitch McConnell in Kentucky where it sure sounds like everybody was going through the motions and hoping for next Tuesday to arrive:
The event featuring Sen. Mitch McConnell was billed as a “Restore America Rally.” As rallies went, it had the rough feeling of a Quaker worship meeting. As campaign events went, the candidate’s name was hardly mentioned.
McConnell spoke halfway through the gathering and left without taking questions or staying to see co-headliner Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. His speech was not lofty. “There’s only one change that can happen this year and that’s to change the Senate,” he said.
“Where are our students?” asked one of the opening speakers, by way of rallying the young people. Two hands — one of which appeared to belong to an elementary school-age boy — went up.
Ambivalence about McConnell himself was the subtext — the main point at the rally was the need to beat the Democrats. Matt Bevin, who had challenged McConnell from the right in the primary, spoke about the importance of the race, mentioning McConnell’s opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes. He declined, however, to actually endorse McConnell, or even say his name….
Enthusiasm matters in an election, but it isn’t everything.
Indeed, if “enthusiasm” is the deciding factor in Kentucky, Mitch is in real trouble. But we’ve known that all along. He’s survived all this time by driving up the negatives of opponents and making himself acceptable–and inevitable. It would be nice to see that strategy fail for once.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, Washington Monthly, October 30, 2014
“Losing Services Of Many People”: The Media’s Overreaction To Ebola Is Sending A Chill Through My Coworkers At Doctors Without Borders
One of my colleagues is ill with Ebola that he contracted while working in West Africa for Medicines Sans Frontiers, otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders. Dr. Craig Spencer is having a hard enough time fighting the disease, but it’s only been made worse for him and his family by the criticism and outrage that was heaped upon him by the press, including The New Republic. It has sent a chill through other MSF field workers, whose job is challenging enough without the added burden of facing similar treatment upon return home.
It is neither fair nor accurate to accuse Dr. Spencer of moral failings for not quarantining himself on his return. He did not run about New York while “sick,” as Julia Ioffe contends, and did not put people in danger. As has been made clear since the beginning of the outbreak, only people with symptoms can transmit Ebola. At the first sign of illness—a fever on October 23, when he still would have represented only a minimal risk of contagion—he contacted the MSF office, which then alerted city health authorities. He was then taken directly to Bellevue Hospital, well before he posed a threat to the public.
Armchair physicians note that a couple days before this, Dr. Spencer was feeling “sluggish.” This is not the onset of Ebola, this is the normal condition of those who have been working around the clock for weeks in a stressful setting prior to travel across several time zones. Nor should one read into his abstaining from work a need to protect his patients. He needed rest. MSF advises all aid workers back from the field to get rest before going back to work, and it goes further with people working in Ebola projects, mandating that they not return to work for three weeks to reduce their exposure to sick people from whom they might catch something that might be confused with Ebola and cause unnecessary alarm.
Howard Markel implies that Spencer presumed he would never get Ebola and therefore took a risk with himself and others. MSF does not send people like that to the field. Everyone who departs on an Ebola mission with MSF is made very aware of the risks involved and how to manage them. What’s more, Dr. Spencer worked with a team that had seen people dying from Ebola every day, and this includes MSF staff. MSF has lost thirteen staff members during this outbreak, and two international staff members like Dr. Spencer had to be evacuated from the field after contracting Ebola. No one who works for MSF in the field thinks Ebola could not happen to them or is unaware of its risks to others. No one.
Noam Scheiber is mistaken in writing that “it’s become our policy in this country to quarantine anyone who had direct contact with an Ebola patient.” This was not federal or state policy when Scheiber wrote his story, nor is it MSF policy. If the public feels that things should have been done differently, they should direct their complaints at MSF, not at Dr. Spencer. We are happy and ready to have this conversation. MSF have been bringing people back from Ebola outbreaks for almost 20 years, and we have an evidence-based policy for how they should protect the public on their return; it does not involve self-quarantine. The World Health Organization does not mandate quarantine for their staff, either. Nor does the CDC feel this is warranted. Only now, after Dr. Spencer’s diagnosis and the excessive reaction to it, are some states beginning to require this, even though public health experts know this is a bad idea. Our colleague Kaci Hickox had the misfortune of arriving back in the U.S. just as the new quarantine requirement was announced, and her haphazard and harsh treatment will not be encouraging to others.
Thus far, MSF has had great fortune finding people willing to go to West Africa to fight Ebola. They have set aside fears, reassured their families, and obtained leave from their ordinary responsibilities to join us. This speaks to the character and commitment of the people who work with us—people like Dr. Spencer and Kaci Hickox. If they are discouraged by the prospect of three weeks of near total isolation on their return, we may lose the services of many good people. That will damage the effort to counter the outbreak at its epicenter, which remains the best way to protect the public at large, in any country.
By: Dr. Armand Sprecher, Public Health Specialist at Médecins Sans Frontières in Brussels; The New Republic, October 30, 2014
Just when you thought the Republican slime-ballers had run out of muck, you discover, no, they have more mud to throw at honorable people. And they are not just smearing Barack Obama. This time, they are disparaging the doctors and scientists at the National Institutes of Health and depicting them as weak-willed tools of the Democratic Party. If Americans fall for this, they may get the government they deserve—stripped of honest science and trustworthy decisions.
Republicans are not stupid, but they are shameless. They know people are rattled by the stealthy emergence of Ebola and that media hype has reflexively pumped up the danger and public confusion. NIH experts calmly explained what has to be done to defeat the disease and assured nervous citizens that healthcare teams are on the case. The GOP saw opportunity in unfolding tragedy and rushed to exploit it.
A political hack named Ed Rogers, corporate lobbyist and White House insider under Republican presidents, chortled gleefully over the political twist. His op-ed in The Washington Post hailed the brave governors of New York and New Jersey—Democrat Cuomo and Republican Christie—for intervening with a common-sense response. Any doctor or nurse who had gone to West Africa to treat Ebola victims should be automatically locked up in quarantine when they return home.
Rogers boasted, “If there is a Republican wave in the elections next Tuesday, pundits may well claim that it fully formed when Christie and Cuomo decided to go their own way with an Ebola strategy, despite objections from the White House.” People will be reassured by their common-sense intervention, he said, because “voters don’t trust the president to do the right thing and they are less likely to vote for those who echo the president’s blasé response.”
Actually, this know-nothing attack was launched by two well-known cynics of politics, both of whom lust after presidential ambitions. What Ed Rogers left out of the slime ball aimed at Obama is that it actually smeared some of the most experienced, knowledgeable and principled employees of the federal government. The real question at stake is whether the GOP demagoguery will succeed in destroying yet another citadel of advanced science and public values.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who played a significant role in the successful war against AIDS/HIV, has explained patiently and repeatedly why rigid quarantines of healthcare workers would actually increase the dangers. “The best way to protect the US is to stop the epidemic in Africa and we need those healthcare workers so we do not want to put them in a position where it makes it very, very uncomfortable for them to even volunteer.”
If political pollsters were more devoted to the public interest than their political clients, they would ask people this question: Whom do you most trust to handle the battle against Ebola—Dr. Fauci, the longtime leader of the national Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or Chris Christie, the author of political vendettas against Jersey mayors who failed to support him? Or do people think Andrew Cuomo knows more than Anthony Fauci about how to organize the global counterattack against this dread disease?
The questions sound ludicrous, but they need to be asked. Once these guys finish with New York and New Jersey, they want to run the country. Let me restate the question in a harsher way people can understand: Who do you think will manage to kill more people with Ebola—Dr. Fauci or Governors Cuomo and Christie, the political twins?
Senator Elizabeth Warren, as she often does, is pushing back hard against the irresponsible politicians. On CBS This Morning, she said Christie “should bring out his scientists who are advising him on that because we know that we want to be led by the science. That’s what’s going to keep people safe—science, not politics.”
She went further and suggested the Republican party may have blood on its hands because it has pushed hard to cut NIH spending and thus research on the Ebola virus. “So now we’re in a position where instead of making those investments upfront, we wait until people die and now we’re going to spend billions of dollars and some real risk to our country.”
Good question. Why don’t reporters ask Dr. Christie and Dr Cuomo?
By: William Greider, The Nation, October 29, 2014
The stakes of the 2014 midterm elections, as many have noted, seem awfully low. Yes, control of the Senate is up for grabs, but there’s only so much Republicans will be able to accomplish in the face of the veto and filibuster. As my own colleagues have pointed out, this is an overly sanguine view of the matter. But the tendency to underplay the election is especially misplaced when it comes to races for governor and state legislature. Consider Maine, where a new development in the race for governor may well have just won some 70,000 people health coverage.
Maine’s current governor is Paul LePage, a Republican elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave whose defining legacy—even more than outrageous comments such as telling the NAACP to “kiss my butt,” saying President Obama “hates white people” and comparing the IRS to the Gestapo—will be his profound antipathy to the social safety net that so many people rely on in Maine, New England’s poorest state. As the Wall Street Journal recently summarized, LePage, a former millworker who was the eldest of 18 children in an abusive home and a teenage runaway, “pushed for new laws that required drug testing for certain beneficiaries linked to drug crimes and created stricter income limits on childless workers who collected Medicaid. He also let a food-stamp waiver expire, a move that effectively terminates benefits for able-bodied childless workers after three months. His changes to food stamps, Medicaid and cash-assistance programs helped cut the beneficiary rolls from recent peaks by 11%, 12%, and 56%, respectively.”
And he has vetoed—not once, but thrice—the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which would cover nearly 70,000 people in the state—that is, more people than live in Portland, the state’s largest city. This explains Maine’s remarkable singularity on the lower of these two eye-catching maps, where it stands out as the only state in New England with large numbers of uninsured.
How did Maine, a state that went for Barack Obama by more than 15 points in 2012, elect such a person as its governor? By a fluke. LePage got only 38 percent of the vote in 2010, but that was enough to win, as Democrats split their votes between Eliot Cutler, a wealthy businessman running as an independent, and Libby Mitchell, the Democratic state Senate president.
And as cringe-inducing as LePage’s tenure has been for a state known for a more sober form of politics, it’s been looking like LePage might just pull a repeat. Cutler is running again this year alongside a different Democrat, Congressman Mike Michaud. Cutler’s drawing less support than he got in 2010, when he far surpassed Mitchell, but he’s been getting more than enough to pose a real problem for Michaud: a Portland Press-Herald poll released over the weekend found LePage getting 45 percent to Michaud’s 35 percent, with Cutler drawing 16 percent. As averse as Maine liberals are to see LePage reelected, many simply have felt more drawn to Cutler than to Michaud, himself a former millworker who is more conservative than Cutler on abortion, gun rights, and other issues. (Michaud came out as gay last year, yet even national gay rights groups have been ambivalent about backing him over Cutler.) After months of LePage’s being declared one of the most endangered governors in the country, his prospects were improbably looking up.
Until Wednesday. At a morning press conference, Cutler sent a cryptic message that, while far short of a resignation from the race, was taken by many as a hint that it was time for his supporters to put beating LePage above all else. “I truly believe in democracy and the ultimate authority of voters to vote for whomever they want for whatever reason and I don’t think any voter, whether a supporter of mine or not, now needs or ever has needed my permission or my blessing to vote for one of my opponents,” Cutler said. “Nevertheless, I want to reiterate what I said six months ago: Anyone who has supported me but who now worries that I cannot win and is thereby compelled by their fears or by their conscience to vote instead for Mr. LePage or Mr. Michaud should do so.”
If this message was a bit too ambiguous for the liking of some Michaud supporters, it was given a whole lot more clarity later in the day. Angus King, the highly popular former governor and now U.S. senator who is an independent but caucuses with the Democrats in Washington, announced that he was switching his endorsement from Cutler to Michaud. “Like Eliot, I too am a realist. After many months considering the issues and getting to know the candidates, it is clear that the voters of Maine are not prepared to elect Eliot in 2014,” King said. “The good news is that we still have a chance to elect a governor who will represent the majority of Maine people: my friend and colleague, Mike Michaud. And today, I’d like to offer him my support….This was not an easy decision, but I think the circumstances require that those of us who have supported Eliot look realistically at the options before us at this critical moment in Maine history.”
This was surely not an easy concession for Cutler (and secondarily King) to make, but they deserve credit for acknowledging, if somewhat belatedly, where things were heading. Politics is about real people, and in the case of Maine, starkly so. Tens of thousands of low-income Maine residents are far more likely to get a lot more economic security as a result of what happened on this one day.
By: Alec MacGillis, The New Republic, October 29, 2014
The midterm elections are less than a week away, and money is pouring into contested states and districts at a furious pace. A new analysis from Public Citizen shows the biggest “dark money” spender is none other than the US Chamber of Commerce, a mega-trade group representing all sorts of corporations—and one that is spending exclusively to defeat Democrats in the general election.
The Chamber is a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization, meaning it doesn’t have to disclose its donors. We know from looking at its board, available membership lists and tax forms from big corporations that much of the Chamber’s money has generally come from titans in the oil, banking and agriculture industries, among others.
The Chamber is leaving a huge footprint in almost every race it enters. The report shows that, through October 25, the Chamber has spent $31.8 million. The second-largest dark-money spender, Crossroads GPS, spent $23.5 million:
Among the report’s other findings:
- The Chamber is averaging $908,000 per race it enters.
- The Chamber is the biggest dark-money spender in twenty-eight of thirty-five races it entered.
- Of the twelve contested Senate races, the Chamber is the top non-disclosing outside spender in seven of those races, spending an average of $1.7 million per state.
- In the twenty-three House races in which the Chamber has spent over $11.5 million, it is the top spender in all but two of them.
- The Chamber has spent mainly to either support Republicans or attack Democrats. The only money it spent against Republicans came early in the year during GOP primaries to support business-friendly Republican candidates.
Thanks to weak campaign finance laws, however, we will likely never know who exactly is bankrolling this massive presence in the midterm elections. “When large corporations decide they want to get their own candidates into office but they don’t want to be seen doing it, they call the US Chamber,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “These politicians then push for anti-environmental, anti-consumer and anti-health policies and priorities that hurt everyday Americans.”
By: George Zornick, The Nation, October 29, 2014