Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at an event on, Sept. 20, 2014, in Los Angeles, Calif.
Photo by Chris Carlson/AP

Ebola shouldn’t be the new political football

Updated
A couple of weeks ago, President Obama traveled to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to unveil an ambitious U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, including money, materials, and military and health personnel. Almost immediately, the right started complaining bitterly.
 
“We are sending more soldiers to fight Ebola than we are sending to fight ISIS or other Muslim terrorists,” Rush Limbaugh told his listeners. “I didn’t know you could shoot a virus. Did you?”
 
Now that an Ebola case has been diagnosed in the United States, the right’s politicization instincts are kicking in once more. Fox News’ Steve Doocy went so far as to suggest the CDC may not be entirely trustworthy – it’s part of the Obama administration, Doocy said, which Fox News viewers believe “has misled a lot of people on a lot of things.”
 
And then there’s Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who’s worried about Ebola and “political correctness.”
[Paul] on Wednesday questioned President Obama’s decision to dispatch 3,000 U.S. troops to West Africa to help combat the Ebola virus.
 
“Where is disease most transmittable? When you’re in very close confines on a ship,” Paul said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. “We all know about cruises and how they get these diarrhea viruses that are transmitted very easily and the whole ship gets sick. Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers catch Ebola?”
The senator specifically added, “I really think it is being dominated by political correctness.”
 
Also yesterday, Paul talked about Ebola with Glenn Beck – because, you know, that’s what U.S. senators and prospective presidential candidates do – and argued that the public may not be frightened enough. “I do think you have to be concerned,” the Kentucky Republican told Beck. “It’s an incredibly transmissible disease that everyone is downplaying, saying it’s hard to catch…. I’m very concerned about this. I think at the very least there needs to be a discussion about airline travel between the countries that have the raging disease.”
 
I’ll assume the senator isn’t recommending a flight ban for Dallas.
 
Because Rand Paul has a medical background, some may be more inclined to take his concerns seriously on matters of science and public health. With this in mind, it’s probably worth noting that the senator, prior to starting a career in public office four years ago, was a self-accredited ophthalmologist before making the leap to Capitol Hill.
 
So when Paul compares Ebola to an ailment that is “transmitted very easily,” and describes the virus as “incredibly transmissible,” it’s a mistake to assume the senator knows what he’s talking about. There are actual medical experts and specialists in the field of transmittable diseases – and the junior senator from Kentucky isn’t one of them.
 
If Paul were just a little more responsible, he wouldn’t make public comments like these at a time when many Americans already have irrational fears.
 
As for concern for the safety of U.S. troops, CNN reports that the Pentagon does not expect servicemen and women to come in direct contact with Ebola patients as part of the American response to the African outbreak.
 

Ebola and Rand Paul

Ebola shouldn't be the new political football

Updated