Is it possible that some Republican elected officials simply don’t follow the news?
Maybe that explains why they don’t mention the 43 people who had been exposed to Ebola in Texas that were released from quarantine last week after being confined for 21 days— the incubation period for the disease—and declared Ebola-free?
Perhaps that’s why no Republicans discuss that four of those 43 people had shared a small Dallas apartment with the Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, for a week while he was gravely ill with Ebola before he died on Oct. 8. We are talking when Duncan had a 104-degree fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Yet, still none of them contracted the disease.
And we don’t hear a peep from them about the two Americans who had contracted Ebola and who recently overcome the disease. Okay, perhaps they missed NBC cameraman Ashoka Mukpo being released from a Nebraska hospital Wednesday, but how could they not see Nina Pham, the nurse who had contracted the disease in a Dallas hospital earlier this month, hug President Obama in the Oval Office on Friday?
The GOP’s lack of interest in news must be the explanation for why they continue to whip up fears about Ebola, right? For example, during Thursday’s U.S. Senate debate in New Hampshire, Republican Scott Brown mentioned that, “There is a rational fear from citizens in New Hampshire” that “people with diseases are coming through our border.”
Of course, Brown didn’t cite even one example of an Ebola-infected person sneaking into the United States. But hey, facts don’t matter when scaring voters.
And then there’s the tight U.S. Senate race in Louisiana. There, Sen. Mary Landrieu’s Republican opponent, Bill Cassidy, released a statement Tuesday that said President Obama’s handling of the Ebola is “posing an immediate danger” to “Louisiana families.” We also saw three other GOP Senate candidates play the Ebola card this week: Virginia’s Ed Gillespie, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, and Georgia’s David Perdue. First, all three essentially parroted each other by first offering up some scary comments on Ebola. Then each attacked the Obama administration’s handling of the situation, which in turn means that Ebola is likely coming to get you and your family.
And adding to this cacophony of impending calamity was Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who on Wednesday told the news media (OK, not quite “news media,” Fox News) that new White House Ebola czar Ron Klain was “off to a bad start.” Nothing like undermining people’s confidence by saying—literally on the guy’s first day on the job—that he’s already screwing up.
These comments are actually tame compared to the off-the-charts, scary chatter heard from the GOP last week. The craziest of all was Rand Paul, who faulted those who were saying Ebola is not easy to catch. Sen. Paul really sounded the alarm bells with the remark, “We have physicians and health workers who are catching it who are completely gloved down.” For those actually keeping score, at the time of Paul’s remark, we had only two nurses who’d contracted the disease, and zero physicians.
Coming in second in the race to scare the crap out us was Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who warned that ISIS fighters might infect themselves with Ebola and then try to infect us all. Of course, a person is only contagious when manifesting Ebola’s symptoms, such as uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting. At that point, a gravely ill person would have to somehow get their bodily fluids into your system. It has to be challenging to run around and smear your bodily fluids on people when you are uncontrollably pooping and puking.
This rhetoric is in sharp contrast to what we heard Thursday night from Democratic elected officials in New York City after it was determined that a doctor who had recently returned from treating people with Ebola in Guinea had tested positive for the disease. Mayor Bill De Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the public that everything is under control and there is no reason for panic. Of course, right-wing former New York Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey did her best to undermine these assurances by stating during a radio interview on Sunday that “Our hospitals aren’t ready for Ebola.”
So why are the Republicans continuing with their one-two punch of “Ebola is going to get you” and “Obama is failing to protect your family?” Simple. Fear is the GOP’s modus operandi. We have seen the GOP use it effectively in the past regarding gay marriage, Muslims, blacks and Latinos. They scare voters into voting for them because frankly it’s much simpler than discussing complex issues—like creating jobs, immigration reform, or health care.
And here’s the worst part: Two polls released this week indicate it’s working again. A Politico poll released Monday found that nearly one-third of respondents said they were either losing or have no confidence in the federal government’s handing of the Ebola outbreak.
Add to that a survey released Wednesday that finds that the GOP’s fear-mongering has taken hold of Americans. Almost 46 percent said they were deeply concerned Ebola would spread widely across the country despite the fact that only two people contracted the disease on U.S. soil.
This couldn’t have played out any better for the GOP. First, they scare everyone. Then they position themselves as the guardians of the galaxy who will save us all from this dastardly threat.
I wish I could say that if more in the media called out the Republicans’ fear mongering it would stop. But who are we kidding? The only way Republican leaders will change their tactics is if they lose a few elections in a row doing it. So until that day comes—if ever—be prepared for more rides in the GOP’s House of Horrors.
By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, October 27, 2014
I don’t know if Ebola is actually going to take Republicans to victory this fall, but it’s becoming obvious that they are super-psyched about it. Put a scary disease together with a new terrorist organization and the ever-present threat of undocumented immigrants sneaking over the border, and you’ve got yourself a putrid stew of fear-mongering, irrationality, conspiracy theories, and good old-fashioned Obama-hatred that they’re luxuriating in like it was a warm bath on a cold night.
It isn’t just coming from the nuttier corners of the right where you might expect it. It’s going mainstream. One candidate after another is incorporating the issue into their campaign. Scott Brown warns of people with Ebola walking across the border. Thom Tillis agrees: “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got an Ebola outbreak, we have bad actors that can come across the border. We need to seal the border and secure it.” “We have to secure the border. That is the first thing,” says Pat Roberts, “And in addition, with Ebola, ISIS, whoever comes across the border, the 167,000 illegals who are convicted felons, that shows you we have to secure the border and we cannot support amnesty.” Because really, what happens if you gave legal status to that guy shingling your roof, and the next thing you know he’s a battle-hardened terrorist from the ISIS Ebola brigade who was sent here to vomit on your family’s pizza? That’s your hope and change right there.
Nor is it just candidates. Today the Weekly Standard, organ of the Republican establishment, published an article called “Six Reasons to Panic,” which includes insights like “even if this Ebola isn’t airborne right now, it might become so in the future,” and asks, “What’s to stop a jihadist from going to Liberia, getting himself infected, and then flying to New York and riding the subway until he keels over?” What indeed? This follows on a piece in the Free Beacon (which is the junior varsity Weekly Standard) called “The Case For Panic,” which argued that the Obama administration is so incompetent that everything that can kill us probably will.
Even if most people aren’t whipped up into quite the frenzy of terror Republicans hope, I suspect that there will be just enough who are to carry the GOP across the finish line in November. When people are afraid, they’re more likely to vote Republican, so it’s in Republicans’ interest to make them afraid. And you couldn’t come up with a better vehicle for creating that fear than a deadly disease coming from countries full of dark-skinned foreigners. So what if only two Americans, both health care workers caring for a dying man, have actually caught it? You don’t need facts to feed the fear. And they only need two and a half more weeks.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, October 17, 2014
The first transmission of Ebola within the United States, from Liberian visitor Thomas Eric Duncan to a Dallas nurse, marked a turning point in the political dialogue surrounding the virus toward an unbridled opportunism. The subsequent diagnosis of a second nurse and other revelations—that she took a flight shortly before she began showing symptoms, apparently with Centers for Disease Control’s approval—have only accelerated it. Obviously a degree of paranoia and sensationalism has colored the Ebola story since long before this week. But this week’s developments provided conservatives the psychological ammunition they needed to justify using the specter of a major Ebola outbreak as an election-year base-mobilization strategy.
Republican candidates like Scott Brown are now in on the game, and so is House Speaker John Boehner. Fox News, with the exception of Shepard Smith, is ginning up more Ebola terror than CNN, which had been the vanguard of Ebola hysteria until this week. Matt Drudge’s call to panic was not only deranged—
—but unintentionally self-defeating, as one cannot vote if one is self-quarantined.
Engaging in the politics of fear requires a pretense. You can find people who hype mortal danger, without a sheen of plausibility, shouting into bullhorns on street corners. Politicians and their enablers need persuasive stories that make the threats sound real. And the story that many conservatives are telling about Ebola goes something like this: We’d love to eschew hysteria, and we’d love to believe our public health officials can break the chain of transmission within the U.S., but the Obama administration has proven itself untrustworthy.
“This is an episode when people want to trust the government, people need to trust the government and they can’t,” columnist George Will intoned on Fox News earlier this month. “What was happening exactly 12 months ago? A government shutdown and the disastrous rollout of Healthcare.gov. Since then we’ve had intelligence failures regarding ISIS; we’ve had the debacle of the veterans handling of healthcare; and the Secret Service that couldn’t lock the front door of the White House. So people think this is a gang that can’t shoot straight.”
University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds repackaged Will’s basic argument in USA Today on Monday. Among those he cited was “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd, who added lost IRS emails, Edward Snowden’s NSA disclosures, and the child-migrant crisis to the litany. Members of the media are enabling this opportunism. They should be anathematizing it.
The competence argument is appealing because it doesn’t require dabbling in pseudoscience or xenophobia—just healthy skepticism of our governing institutions. Moreover, I’m certain this sort of skepticism does help explain why a large minority of people in the U.S. feels at risk of contracting Ebola. But they are at no great risk. That the risk is provably infinitesimal underscores the fact that the issue with Ebola isn’t the virus itself so much as paranoia about it.
Even if each of the failures and crises enumerated above were as unambiguous and damning as the administration’s critics claim, it doesn’t follow that federal health officials aren’t up to the task of controlling Ebola, or that the public at large faces any meaningful risk. It might follow that we shouldn’t believe this season’s Affordable Care Act enrollment period will be glitch-free, and that the Vetrerans Affairs’s problems won’t be solved with new management alone. The point is not that we should never draw inferences from this administration’s previous failings. But it’s a fallacy to arbitrarily extend that second-guessing to the Ebola containment effort, while at the same time happily taking it for granted that the vast majority of things we entrust the government to do will continue apace.
Ebola carries a crucial mix of novelty, visibility, and lethality that ripens it for demagogy. But conservatives have selected a familiar line of demagogy—that you can’t trust the government to administer things and solve problems—and imposed it on to a situation where stoking reflexive distrust of the government tugs at the lid of a big Pandora’s box.
The sad irony is that state and local institutions, so beloved on the right, were apparently out to sea when Ebola arrived in Dallas, and health officials there would have let things drift further into chaos had the federal government not intruded further. Not that they’ve performed flawlessly, but we need more of their expertise and involvement, not less. Texas Governor Rick Perry—who in gentler times plays footsie with secession—is grateful for this intrusion, and has “great faith” that their efforts will succeed. Perhaps he’ll surprise us further by dismissing the idea that the federal officials who’ve stepped up against Ebola shouldn’t be trusted because about a year ago, some federal healthcare website was beset by glitches.
By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, October 16, 2014
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was dismissive yesterday of an unfounded concern: Islamic State terrorists using the Ebola virus. In remarks to the Association of the United States Army, Johnson specifically said, “We’ve seen no specific credible intelligence that [ISIS] is attempting to use any sort of disease or virus to attack our homeland.”
That’s good to hear, of course, but the fact that it was necessary for the DHS secretary to make these comments was itself rather striking.
As a friend reminded me yesterday, we’ve heard quite a bit about possible threats from ISIS terrorists; and we’ve heard plenty about the dangers of Ebola; but we’ve apparently entered a new phase in which ISIS may strike with Ebola.
And where is such talk coming from? Greg Sargent reported yesterday on the latest remarks from former Sen. Scott Brown (R), now running in New Hampshire after losing two years ago in Massachusetts. In this case, the Republican was asked whether he supports travel restrictions on countries in West Africa. Brown replied:
“We need a comprehensive approach and I think that should be part of it. I think it’s all connected. For example, we have people coming into our country by legal means bringing in diseases and other potential challenges. Yet we have a border that’s so porous that anyone can walk across it. I think it’s naive to think that people aren’t going to be walking through here who have those types of diseases and/or other types of intent, criminal or terrorist. And yet we do nothing to secure our border.”
Brown has dabbled in this before, but I think this was the most direct he’s been to date to tie together the disparate threads of terrorism, Ebola, and border security, all at the same time, all in the hopes of exploiting public anxiety to advance his personal ambitions. (North Carolina’s Thom Tillis recently pushed a similar tack, though he didn’t go for the full trifecta.)
The politics of fear isn’t pretty, and as Brown makes clear, it’s getting worse. The public can, however, take at least some comfort in the fact that the New England Republican doesn’t seem to have any idea what he’s talking about.
For example, Brown believes “that anyone can walk across” the border because “we do nothing to secure” it. For an issue the Republican claims to take seriously, he’s badly confused – border security is actually at an all-time high.
But the more amusing takeaway is the degree to which the right wants to connect every story to its unrelated goal. Want to improve the economy? Secure the border. Want to fight terrorism? Secure the border. Worried about public health? Secure the border. Worried about crime? Secure the border.
If you’ve got a problem, Republicans have a border that needs securing.
It’s reminiscent of the Bush/Cheney era, when just about every possible challenge – economy, energy policy, terrorism, health care – was met with a call to cut taxes.
Of course, the difference is, when it comes to immigration, Democrats are fully prepared to give Republicans the exact border-security measures the GOP wants as part of a comprehensive reform package. It’s a shame Republicans won’t consider a compromise.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 15, 2014