Republicans lashed out at Obama’s decision Friday to appoint the first-ever Ebola response coordinator, a title already commonly referred to as the “Ebola czar.” GOP ire also extended to the Democratic Party, with claims that it’s launching a “war on women nurses.”
As more than 100 people are being monitored across the country for potential exposure to the deadly virus, many Americans are reportedly anxious about the developments. Schools in Ohio and Texas were closed over concerns about exposure, and a wedding store that was visited by a nurse who was later diagnosed with Ebola was also shuttered. “We’ve got an all-hands-on-deck approach across government to make sure that we are keeping the American people safe,” the president said Friday, shorty after appointing an Ebola response coordinate to oversee the government’s response to the disease.
But Republicans aren’t pleased with the president’s efforts to curb the disease in the U.S. or his appointment of Ron Klain to head the efforts. As the GOP gears up for midterm elections with the goal of reclaiming the Senate, and eventually the White House, lawmakers are jumping on the public’s anxiety and fueling the partisan fire.
“Gosh can you imagine if Mitt was the president right now?” the Massachusetts senator turned New Hampshire candidate Scott Brown said on Fox News. “He was right on Russia, he was right on Obamacare, he was right on the economy. And I guarantee you we would not be worrying about Ebola right now and, you know, worrying about our foreign policy screw ups.”
In Texas, where 79 people are being monitored for signs of the disease after varying degrees of exposure to the deadly virus, Gov. Rick Perry — who is openly considering a 2016 run — donned a “commander-in-chief” tone as he outlined plans determined by his Ebola task force, including additional testing and treatment centers in the state of Texas for Ebola. Perry also released a statement on Friday calling for an ban on air travel from counties affected by Ebola. The governor recently cut his own European trip short and flew back to Texas, which has been the epicenter of those infected in the U.S.
Perry added that the government’s overall response as “unacceptable” and specifically noted that he couldn’t legally prohibit exposed individuals from traveling to help contain the disease — but the president could and should.
“We don’t need another so-called ‘czar’; we need presidential leadership,” said Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz, a likely 2016 candidate, in a statement. “If the President will not act, if he will not lead, then Congress should immediately reconvene for an emergency session to enact a flight ban and take any other necessary measures to protect the health and safety of Americans.”
Others balked at the choice of Klain, a longtime politico, for not having a medical background. Rep. Tim Murphy, who chairs a House committee that met yesterday to discuss Ebola, called it “both shocking and frankly tone deaf.”
“Already, concerns have been raised about the President’s choice. I hope Mr. Klain will come forward quickly with a set of concrete actions to reassure Americans that this administration is taking this situation seriously,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another potential 2016 hopeful.
Others simply slammed the Democratic party as a whole. One Republican alleged that Ebola was part of the Democratic Party’s “war on women,” the term the left has used to describe policies that discriminate against women.
“You know, it’s a shame that the CDC head, Frieden, is apparently the commander of the Democrats’ new war on women nurses,” Rep. Louie Gohmert said in a radio interview with Glenn Beck. “They set them up, and then they throw them under the bus.”
“I have to ask why the President didn’t pick an individual with a noteworthy infectious disease or public health background?” California Republican Rep. Ed Royce said in a statement. Others took to Twitter with a volley of criticism.
Republican lawmakers have been calling all week to prohibit travel between the countries hardest hit by Ebola, despite experts’ fears that such a ban would hamper efforts to help stop the outbreak in West Africa. The epidemic there has killed more than 4,000 since April and infected twice as many.
“You’re right, it needs to be solved in Africa. But until it is, we should not be allowing these folks in, period,” the panel’s chairman, Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, said in yesterday’s tense hearing on issue. Lawmakers called for travel bans as CDC head Tom Frieden attempted to assure members of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
“There’s zero doubt in my mind that barring a mutation which changes it — which we don’t think is likely — there will not be a large outbreak in the U.S.,” Frieden told lawmakers. “We know how to control Ebola, even in this period.”
As for the White House? According to spokesman Josh Earnest, they’re not too surprised.
“Three weeks before an Election Day, and Republicans are seeking to score political points,” he said at a briefing today. “Stop the presses!’”