It was only a matter of time. Conservative media, and even some journalists who should know better, have decided Ebola is – you guessed it – “Obama’s Katrina.”
How many “Katrinas” are we up to? The media has been rather cavalier in throwing the label around in recent years, applying it to healthcare.gov, Superstorm Sandy, the 2010 midterms, the BP oil spill, migrant children from Central America, AIG bonuses, swine flu, and the Haiti earthquake. Dave Weigel and Judd Legum have found others.
Dylan Scott’s response rings true.
Other legacy-defining crises – Obama’s Katrinas, if you will, and that’s been used now with Ebola, too – have come and gone. The media has hyped those as well. Now, Americans need level-headed information so that they know that their lives aren’t imminently at risk because of Ebola. But you can’t expect them to understand that if this is how the situation is being presented to them.
Right. It’s not that the Ebola threat is meaningless, because the opposite is true. We’re talking about a legitimate danger that requires the nation’s – and the world’s – public-health infrastructure needs to respond deliberately and effectively. By all appearances, officials recognize the seriousness of the situation, and as Dylan put it, “The entirety of the U.S. public health apparatus is now being concentrated on keeping it to a quite literal handful of cases.”
But that’s all the more reason to avoid lazy political labels that tell the public nothing of value.
As we discussed the last time this came up, the excessive, often ridiculous use of “Obama’s Katrina” is about assessing blame, as if the president is personally responsible for every emergency, crisis, and threat.
The political discourse can and should be smarter than this. Every faux controversy is not Watergate. Every instance of public anxiety is not Katrina. Political bumper stickers, hashtags, sloganeering, and soundbites can be a little too easy, but when there’s real work to do, they’re a poor substitute for problem-solving.