A couple of years ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was asked how old he thinks the planet is. The senator replied, "I'm not a scientist, man." Earlier this year, the Florida Republican said he rejects the way "scientists are portraying" the climate crisis.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced on Monday he will introduce legislation banning travel to the U.S. for nationals of Ebola-stricken African countries once Congress returns the week after the Nov. 4 elections.
The bill would immediately ban U.S. visas for nationals of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, to be lifted once the Centers for Disease Control certify that the outbreak has been contained. It would also subject other countries where the Ebola outbreak reaches "significant levels," Rubio's office said.
Once introduced, this will be the first Senate legislation mandating a West African travel ban, though a related bill has been announced for the House.
In a statement, the conservative senator said he was merely calling for "common sense restrictions on travel" -- though in this case, actual scientific experts are practically unanimous in their belief that travel restrictions would be counterproductive. Rubio is no doubt aware that scientists are urging policymakers to reject his preferred approach, but the Florida Republican apparently doesn't much care.
Emily Schultheis, political reporter for National Journal, talks with Rachel Maddow about how early voting can affect the outcome of elections and how restrictions on poll access and last minute voting rule changes will affect voter turnout. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the humility of congressional candidate Seth Moulton, who was so modest about his highly honored military service that he didn't even tell his parents, and has refrained from treating his service as a campaign gimmick. watch
Dr. Zeke Emanuel, University of Pennsylvania Chair of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, talks with Rachel Maddow about the important, though difficult, lessons the United States has learned in its brief exposure to Ebola. watch
* Texas: "More than three dozen people who were monitored for the last three weeks for possible contact with the Ebola virus were cleared Monday to return to work or school, leaving 133 others still being watched for symptoms of the disease, Dallas County officials said."
* The so-called Ebola Cruise: "In the end, there was never any risk of the Ebola virus aboard what became known as the Ebola Cruise."
* Ugh: "In Hazelhurst, Mississippi, a crowd of parents pulled their middle school students from class Friday after learning that the school's principal recently had traveled to attend a family funeral in Zambia, which is in southern Africa and about 3,000 miles from the outbreak in West Africa."
* Turkey "will allow Iraqi Kurdish forces, known as pesh merga, to cross its border with Syria to help fight militants from the group called the Islamic State who have besieged the Syrian town of Kobani for more than a month, the Turkish foreign minister announced Monday."
* Iraq: "Militants unleashed a flurry of deadly attacks against Shiite targets in Iraq on Monday, including a quadruple car bombing near two of the holiest shrines in Shiite Islam and a suicide attack inside a mosque, officials said."
* Syria: "The cost of turning against the Islamic State was made brutally apparent in the streets of a dusty backwater town in eastern Syria in early August. Over a three-day period, vengeful fighters shelled, beheaded, crucified and shot hundreds of members of the Shaitat tribe after they dared to rise up against the extremists."
* Impressive results in Nigeria: "The World Health Organization declared Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, officially free of Ebola infections on Monday, calling the outcome the triumphal result of 'world class epidemiological detective work.'"
* Maybe we should do something: "The Earth is getting hotter. The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) released a new report Monday that showed the planet is on track to have its hottest year on record. The temperatures from January through September of this year tied with the highest period on record, previously reached in 1998."
* Try not to be surprised: "If Republicans gain the Senate majority in November, President Barack Obama could face pressure from Congress to send ground troops into Iraq and Syria. 'Frankly, I know of no military expert who believes we are going to defeat ISIS with this present strategy,' Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said at a Pacific Council on International Policy conference on Saturday."
Whenever any kind of important national incident unfolds, an odd sort of expectations springs up around President Obama. A crisis in Ukraine, according to the new, unwritten rules, means the president isn't supposed to golf. A crisis in Israel, the rules now dictate, means no traveling to fundraisers. And so on.
But it now seems possible that the rules won't just apply to Obama. Katie Glueck reported the other day on Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) facing similar questions about his travel schedule.
Ebola came to Texas. And Rick Perry went to Europe.
Now the Republican governor, a likely presidential contender, is back in Austin and scrambling to avoid a damaging perception problem like the "oops" moment that doomed his first shot at the White House.
On Oct. 12, the governor left for a long-planned trip to Europe, and soon after, two cases of Ebola were confirmed in his home state. After Perry's aides told reporters he didn't intend to cut the trip short, the governor scrapped his schedule and returned to Texas.
Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist with deep Texas ties, told Glueck, "Crisis management is actually something Perry has done pretty well in the past. But, in this case when the national spotlight was on Texas, Perry was missing in action. And based on pure politics, this is a situation where he could have taken command and control and looked presidential. He's trying to jump back on stage now, but at the very least, he missed the first act because he was in Europe."
McKinnon added that it's "likely" Perry "missed the moment."
Actually, it's arguably worse than that. The Politico piece was good, but it overlooked an important detail: this wasn't the first time.
Science has long been a problem for conservative columnist George Will, as evidenced by his bizarre series of pieces on climate change. But on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, the syndicated writer went further, questioning the science of Ebola, too.
"The problem is, the original assumption was that with great certitude, if not certainty, was that you need to have direct contact, meaning with bodily fluids with someone, because it's not airborne. There are now doctors who are saying, we're not so sure that it can't be in some instances transmitted by airborne. [...]
"In fact, there are doctors who are saying that in a sneeze or some cough, some of the airborne particles can be infectious?"
Even Will's fellow panelists -- on Fox, no less -- tried to guide him away from such rhetoric, but the conservative columnist seemed as eager to be an Ebola truther as a climate denier.
Pressed for an explanation for saying the exact opposite of scientists, public-health advocates, and subject-matter experts, Will added later in the show, "[T]he University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease, Research and Policy has issued a report saying, quote, there is scientific and epidemiological evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients."
The Wisconsin attorney general's race was recently roiled by some unexpected comments: Republican Brad Schimel said "he would have reluctantly defended a ban on interracial marriage had he been attorney general in the 1950s."
It's not that Schimel supports prohibition against interracial marriage, it's just that he believes a state A.G. has to fight to uphold all state laws, whether the laws have merit or not. "It might be distasteful to me ... but I've got to stay consistent with that," he said. "As the state's lawyer, it's not my job to pick and choose."
Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is vigorously defending Texas' same-sex marriage ban in court, says he's unsure whether he would have defended a similar prohibition on interracial marriage had he been in office 50 years ago.
"Right now, if there was a ban on interracial marriage, that's already been ruled unconstitutional," Abbott told the San Antonio Express-News editorial board. "And all I can do is deal with the issues that are before me ... The job of an attorney general is to represent and defend in court the laws of their client, which is the state Legislature, unless and until a court strikes it down."
Political reporter Peggy Fikac, added, "When I said I wasn't clear if he [Abbott] was saying he would have defended a ban on interracial marriage, he said, 'Actually, the reason why you're uncertain about it is because I didn't answer the question. And I can't go back and answer some hypothetical question like that.'"
When public fears surrounding the Ebola virus subside, and we're able to reflect on which public officials acted responsibly and which acted poorly, we'll regrettably have ample fodder for the latter category.
And near the top of the list will be Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), who actually distributed a fundraising letter through the far-right Conservative Action Fund, exploiting public anxiety for cash. Jennifer Haberkorn reported over the weekend:
"I've joined with the Conservative Action Fund and started the Stop Ebola Petition to ensure the safety of Americans and demand Congress end all commercial flights from ebola stricken nations," Broun wrote in a message sent to the group's email list. "Ebola travels fast -- this petition has to travel faster."
The email, marked by two black blocks with bright red lettering, is titled "Stop Ebola from reaching you." Its appeal continues, "If you can ... please chip in $5 or $10 to the Conservative Action Fund to help us distribute this petition to literally millions of American citizens."
Let's put aside the fact that a travel ban is a bad idea. While we're at it, let's overlook the minor detail that a "Stop Ebola Petition" will not actually affect public policy in any way.
The more pressing question, I'd argue, is about basic propriety. Who sees a deadly virus and growing public fears, and thinks, "You know, this would look great in a fundraising letter"? Who tries to profit off a disease with political nonsense?
What's more, note that Broun isn't using Ebola as a way to raise cash for himself -- Broun is leaving Congress this year, following a failed U.S. Senate bid -- but rather as a way to help the Conservative Action Fund, the group founded by Shaun McCutcheon of McCutcheon vs. FECfame.
As unseemly as this is, the broader concern is that anxiety about the virus appears to be bringing out the worst in the Republicans' instincts. The nation faces a real public-health challenge and the public needs officials ready to rise to the occasion, showing that when the going gets tough, they're made of sterner stuff.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* In Iowa's U.S. Senate race, Public Policy Polling's latest survey shows Bruce Braley (D) inching past Joni Ernst (R), 48% to 47%. Nearly all other recent polling shows Ernst with a narrow lead.
* Some statewide Democratic candidates are still eager to campaign with President Obama, which was evident yesterday with events in Maryland and Illinois.
* Former President Bill Clinton, meanwhile, continues to campaign for Democrats who are less eager to be seen with Obama, as was clear at an event for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) in Louisiana yesterday.
* It didn't take long for the Florida Democratic Party to create a new ad, poking fun at Gov. Rick Scott (R) for hiding backstage before last week's debate over a small electrical fan.
* It seems hard to believe, but a new Suffolk poll in New Hampshire shows Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) with a narrow lead over former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), 49% to 46%.
* In Massachusetts' gubernatorial race, Martha Coakley (D) declined to participate in a debate last week against Charlie Baker (R), which apparently had the effect of giving Baker "a full hour on the largest network affiliate in the Springfield broadcast TV market."