The cure for Ebola can’t be found by pointing fingers, but that won’t stop some conservatives from playing the Obama blame game.
From right-wing media pundits to certain lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the current epidemic that has so far claimed the lives of over 3,400 people is yet another opportunity for critics to jump on the president’s leadership and policies – Ebola-related, or not.“From the outset of the Ebola outbreak we have been two steps behind, when we should have been two steps ahead,” Republican Sen. Richard Burr said Friday in a statement. “The President made a lot of commitments to combat Ebola, actions which I supported, but it has become clear that the Administration’s capacity to fulfill these promises in a timeline that sufficiently addresses this crisis does not exist.”
Burr’s remarks come as the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, scheduled a hearing to go over the government’s preparedness and response plans – efforts that have been called into question since officials confirmed the first Ebola diagnosis in the United States this week.
Republican Rep. Michael Burgess told The Hill on Thursday that the Obama administration could have prevented Ebola from entering the U.S. had the State Department been more vigilant. Meantime, GOP Sen. Rob Portman criticized the CDC for resisting elevated levels of screening for passengers entering the U.S.
Others lodged more far-fetched charges.
Speaking to Laura Ingraham on Wednesday, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a potential 2016 candidate, accused the Obama administration of allowing “political correctness” to dominate its decisions related to the outbreak.
“For example,” said Paul, “if you’re [having] a worldwide conference of African leaders right now, wouldn’t it make sense to delay it for four months and not have them all come to New York City? It’s ridiculous for them to be underplaying this threat and saying, ‘No big deal.’”
In August, the White House went ahead with a scheduled three-day summit in Washington D.C., attended by nearly 50 African heads of state, despite concerns over the intensifying Ebola epidemic. Leaders from Liberia and Sierra Leone – two countries hit hardest by the outbreak – canceled their plans to attend, and additional medical screening was set up for officials traveling from those nations. No one in the U.S. contracted Ebola as a result of the summit.
Paul also expressed concern over the number of U.S. military personnel traveling to West Africa as part of Obama’s pledge to lead an international response. The Pentagon is preparing to send up to 3,600 troops to assist in the construction of treatment facilities, a shortage of which has contributed to the disease’s spread. While the U.S. will eventually provide medical personnel to train health care workers in West Africa, as of now there are no plans for the troops to provide direct care to Ebola patients.
“Imagine if a whole shipload of our soldiers get Ebola?” Paul said. “I’m concerned about this. It’s a big mistake to downplay it, and act as if this is not a big deal, we can control all of this. This could get beyond our control.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has repeatedly stressed that Ebola is only transmittable through direct contact with the bodily fluids, unlike airborne diseases. While there could be more cases diagnosed in the U.S., health officials are confident it won’t spread to vast swaths of the population.
Paul, however, offered his “suspicion” that the disease is “a lot more transmissible” than the CDC has let on. When the agency’s director, Tom Frieden, appeared on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” Wednesday, host Steve Doocy went so far as to question whether his analysis could be trusted given Frieden’s role in the Obama administration.
“[T]his is a political thing, but you’re part part of the administration,” Doocy said. “[The viewers] feel that the administration had misled a lot of people on a lot of things. Why should we believe you when you’re telling us this stuff?”
Ingraham raised similar alarms on her radio show Wednesday, asking listeners whether they believed what government officials were saying about the Ebola outbreak, given the country’s “biological incapability of telling the truth.” As evidence, Ingraham pointed to the Affordable Care Act, claiming that “none of” what the government said about its health care law was true.
Going after a different administration priority – developing more humane deportation practices – conservative shock jock Rush Limbaugh suggested that the “Washington establishment/political class” was making Ebola-related decisions based off its “desire” for “amnesty,” which he said “equals open borders.”
“Ebola, a killer virus, is political,” said Limbaugh. “We’re in the process of having it politicized. The left politicizes everything. The Democrat Party politicizes everything. Everything is politicized.”