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The White House seen from the South Lawn Aug. 5, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

White House taps Klain to oversee Ebola response

10/17/14 11:21AM

Congressional Republicans, eager to make Ebola a campaign issue, have been clamoring for two things: a travel ban to West Africa and an Ebola "czar." The former would likely make the public-health problem worse, while the latter is ironic given how much energy these same GOP lawmakers invested in decrying the existence of czars.
 
Regardless, the right is apparently getting its wish.
President Barack Obama will appoint Ron Klain to head up efforts to address the Ebola threat, a senior administration official tells NBC News.
 
Klain is a former chief of staff to both Vice President Joe Biden and former Vice President Al Gore. He left the vice president's office in 2011. He is now the president of Case Holdings and serves as the general counsel for Revolution, an investment organization.
Obama signaled his openness to appointing an Ebola "czar" Thursday night, telling reporters that it "may be appropriate" to elevate an additional person to coordinate the U.S. response.
 
Klain, who was among top contenders to replace Jack Lew as the White House chief of staff last year, certainly knows his way around the bureaucracy of the executive branch. As best as I can tell, he has no background in public health, but that's not really the point -- this appears to be a job intended to oversee government agencies, which Klain understands well.
 
Will Republican respond positively? Probably not. Tommy Thompson, a HHS Secretary under Bush/Cheney, is already using this as evidence to bash Obama all over again -- if the president wants a new policy coordinator on Ebola now, Thompson's argument goes, it must mean the president put the wrong officials in place before.
 
I can only assume the GOP lawmakers who hated czars, only to demand more czars, will go back to hating czars again by the end of the day.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., joined by attorneys Paul D. Clement, far left, and Rick Esenberg, second from left, announces that he has filed a lawsuit to block the federal government from helping to pay for health care coverage for members of Congress and th

What Ron Johnson sees as a 'real and present danger'

10/17/14 10:38AM

The Weekly Standard, a prominent conservative magazine, has a piece in its new issue with a headline no doubt intended to get readers' attention: "Six Reasons to Panic." Take a wild guess what the article is about.
 
Reason #3, in particular, is quite a scenario: "What's to stop a jihadist from going to Liberia, getting himself infected [with Ebola], and then flying to New York and riding the subway until he keels over? This is just the biological warfare version of a suicide bomb. Can you imagine the consequences if someone with Ebola vomited in a New York City subway car?" It leads the Weekly Standard to suggest "drastic precautions," though the piece wasn't specific as to what those might be.
 
It's tempting, of course, to just laugh off the conservative magazine, but the more significant problem is that this same line of thought is being espoused by public officials who have a responsibility to be more responsible. Andrew Kaczynski had this report yesterday:
A Republican senator says he sees the threat of ISIS militants intentionally infecting themselves with the Ebola virus and then traveling to America as a "real and present danger."
 
"Well, it's certainly something I've been thinking about ever since this Ebola outbreak started," Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said Wednesday of ISIS using Ebola on America's Forum on NewsmaxTV.
Specifically, the Republican senator told the far-right outlet, "You really don't even want to think about. You really don't even want to talk about, but we should do everything possible to defend ourselves against that possibility because I think that is a real and present danger."
 
Did I mention that Ron Johnson is a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee? Because he is.
 
In case anyone's wondering whether the senator's fears are rooted in fact, let's set the record straight. Or in this case, let's have the director of the FBI explain the situation clearly.
Hurricane Katrina 8th Anniversary - Emma Margolin - 08/29/2013

Lazy labels are a poor substitute for substance

10/17/14 10:10AM

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.
 Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) walks on stage before speaking at the 2014 Values Voter Summit Sept. 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty)

Rand Paul's recklessness spins out of control

10/17/14 09:17AM

A couple of weeks ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) started making appearances on far-right radio, questioning Ebola assessments from the actual experts, blaming "political correctness," and raising threats that seemed plainly at odds with the facts.
 
Soon after, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who directs the Allergy and Infectious Diseases Institutes at NIH, appeared on CBS and was presented with the Republican senator's assessment. "I don't think that there's data to tell us that that's a correct statement, with all due respect," the doctor said.
 
At the risk of putting too fine a point on this, it's no longer clear just how much respect Rand Paul is due. My msnbc colleague Benjy Sarlin reported yesterday from New Hampshire, where the senator appeared eager to move the public conversation backwards.
Rand Paul had a message for students at Plymouth State University who had gathered for a pizza party with the Kentucky senator on Thursday: Ebola is coming for us all and the government is hiding the truth about the deadly disease. [...]
 
"This thing is incredibly contagious," Paul said. "People are getting it, fully gowned, masked, and must be getting a very tiny inoculum and they're still getting it. And then you lose more confidence because they're telling you stuff that may not be exactly valid and they're downplaying it so much that it doesn't appear that they're really being honest about it."
On CNN, Paul added, "If someone has Ebola at a cocktail party they're contagious and you can catch it from them. [The administration] should be honest about that.... You start to wonder about a basic level of competence."
 
Yes, if there's one person who has standing to whine about "a basic level of competence," it's the often confused junior senator from Kentucky -- the one who's deliberately contradicting medical experts, confusing the public at a difficult time.
David Perdue speaks during a forum in Atlanta, Jan. 27, 2014.

Georgia's Perdue fears voters 'really don't understand'

10/17/14 08:40AM

In the latter half of September, eight polls were released publicly on Georgia's U.S. Senate race, and each one showed Republican David Perdue in the lead. Over the last week, however, three statewide polls have come out in Georgia, and Perdue suddenly isn't leading in any of them.
 
Roll Call reported yesterday that the National Republican Senatorial Committee confirmed the party is "looking at a tougher race in Georgia," where the contest between Perdue and Michelle Nunn (D) "has tightened up."
 
It's not lost on officials in either party that Republicans may come up short in their bid to control the U.S. Senate because of Georgia, Kansas, and South Dakota, even if voters in Colorado and Iowa go with surprisingly right-wing candidates.
 
There are competing explanations for developments in Georgia, but the most obvious is Perdue's outsourcing problem -- the conservative Republican has boasted, more than once, about his controversial private-sector background, which includes significant job losses through outsourcing, on top of factory closings, consolidations, and reduced work hours at U.S. facilities.
 
Last week, pressed on his outsourcing record, Perdue told reporters, "Defend it? I'm proud of it."
 
A couple of days ago, facing a new round of questions, the GOP Senate hopeful got a little defensive. Laura Clawson flagged this Perdue quote, which was all he would say on the subject.
"You know, the criticism I've gotten over the last few weeks is coming from people who really have no business background and really don't understand, um, you know, what it takes to create jobs and create economic value, which is really what this free enterprise system is based on."
Hmm. According to Perdue, if the people of Georgia, living in the state with the highest unemployment rate in the country, are bothered by outsourcing, it's because they're ignorant?
 
The video of his comments help drive home the political significance.
Republican senatorial candidate State Sen. Joni Ernst, speaks during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition fall fundraiser on Sept. 27, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Justin Hayworth/AP)

A radical ideology comes into sharper focus

10/17/14 08:00AM

In last night's debate in Iowa, Senate hopeful Joni Ernst (R) made two observations that connect in an important way. The right-wing state senator argued in support of a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced federal budget, before adding that she wouldn't raise any tax under any circumstance.
 
Whether the Republican Senate hopeful understands this or not, the practical implications of these two positions are extraordinary: Ernst would effectively be required, under her own misguided constitutional mandate, to dismantle most of the federal government.
 
Then again, from Ernst's perspective, that may very well be a feature of her plan, not a bug. Greg Sargent reported yesterday on a newly uncovered 2013 speech in which Ernst details her "rather stark views about the relationship of Americans with their government."
In it, Ernst claims that we have created "a generation of people that rely on the government to provide absolutely everything for them," and that wrenching them away from their dependence "is going to be very painful." [...]
 
In the audio, Ernst came out for a balanced budget amendment, said that would require "severe cuts," reiterated her desire to eliminate the Department of Education, vowed a "good, hard look at entitlement programs," and said electing a GOP Senate majority would be a key step towards all of this. She also said we are "encouraging people" to get on food stamps.
Though the far-right Iowan wasn't quite as explicit as Mitt Romney was in his infamous "47 percent" video, the parallels matter. Ernst, in Romney-esque terms, complains that "a generation" of Americans "rely on the government to provide absolutely everything for them." She vows to rectify this in a "very painful" way, presumably with the most acute pain imposed on those who can afford the least.
 
It is the very height of anti-populism -- the Republican U.S. Senate candidate is convinced that families already struggling to get by simply have it too easy, with the public sector lavishing expansive benefits on them. For those who are just barely keeping their heads above water, relying on America's safety net to survive, the right-wing Iowan has a bleak and punitive message to offer: you've had it too easy for too long, and Joni Ernst has a "very painful" future in store.
 
If struggling families in Iowa turned out in significant numbers this year, Ernst would be facing a landslide defeat.
 
What's more, the GOP candidate's message on health care was just as striking.

Ebola czar? and other headlines

10/17/14 07:54AM

Pres. Obama may name 'Czar' to oversee Ebola response. (NY Times) 

U.S. monitors health care worker aboard cruise ship. (AP)

Sen. Rand Paul: Ebola 'incredibly' contagious. (AP)

Ebola, abortion central in final Iowa Senate debate. (Bloomberg Politics)

Rick Scott faces the 'Fangate' heat. (Politico)

How older voters will decide your future. (Daily Beast)

Giffords gets aggressive on gun issues. (National Journal)

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Best US Ebola care remains limited in scale

Best US Ebola care remains limited in scale

10/16/14 10:59PM

Rachel Maddow tallies the number of beds available at elite U.S. medical facilities best prepared to treat Ebola patients (nine total, five remaining) and wonders what it will take to expand that level of care across the U.S. in the event of an outbreak. watch

US ramping-up readiness of elite Ebola care

US ramping-up readiness of elite Ebola care

10/16/14 10:57PM

Dr. Brad Britigan, dean of the containment unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, talks with Rachel Maddow about how quickly U.S. specialized care capacity can be ramped up to accommodate a potential Ebola outbreak. watch

Grenade accident rescue marked by bravery

Grenade accident rescue marked by bravery

10/16/14 10:49PM

Rachel Maddow tells the harrowing story of the rescue efforts that went into removing what was believed to be a live grenade from a man's leg, involving paramedics, military members, and a doctor who put themselves at great personal risk. watch

Ahead on the 10/16/14 Maddow show

10/16/14 07:46PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Colleen McCain Nelson, Wall Street Journal White House correspondent
  • Dr. Brad Britigan, head of the containment unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Marc Caputo, Miami Herald political reporter

After the jump, executive producer Cory Gnazzo gives a look ahead:

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