The PJ Tatler

Are Administration Critics 'Panicking' Over Ebola?

Are those of us questioning the administration’s Ebola policies and plans panicking about the disease? Are we trying to spread panic?

It’s a legitimate question, largely because everything the administration is saying about the virus and how it spreads is the truth — at least, as far as we understand it. The problem isn’t so much that the White House has their facts wrong. The problem is that because they have little credibility, their reassurances about having everything under control and that it could never happen here ring hollow.

That, and the fact that the few common-sense precautions recommended by those critics are dismissed with claims that the proposals will only make things worse — a dubious assertion given the circumstances.

This is a gang that can’t shoot straight, whose demonstrated incompetence in dealing with big public policy issues, both foreign and domestic, worries those of us who have heard this recording about having a handle on things before.

It doesn’t matter if they think they know what to do. It matters that they have shown in the past that facts are of little value when incompetent execution of policy, or developing the wrong policy, leads to disaster.

In a brilliant essay, Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon fleshes out the context of the administration’s pronouncements on Ebola:

Over the last few years the divergence between what the government promises and what it delivers, between what it says is happening or will happen and what actually is happening and does happen, between what it determines to be important and what the public wishes to be important—this gap has become abysmal, unavoidable, inescapable. We hear of “lone-wolf” terrorism, of “workplace violence,” that if you like your plan you can keep your plan. We are told that Benghazi was a spontaneous demonstration, that al Qaeda is on the run, that the border is secure as it has ever been, that Assad must go, that I didn’t draw a red line, the world drew a red line, that the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups involved not a smidgen of corruption, that the Islamic State is not Islamic. We see the government spend billions on websites that do not function, and the VA consign patients to death by waiting list and then cover it up. We are assured that Putin won’t invade; that the Islamic State is the jayvee team of terrorism; that Bowe Bergdahl served with honor and distinction; that there is a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia.

While the public remains pro-Israel, our government negotiates with Israel’s enemies. While the public wants to reduce immigration, the preeminent legislative objective of both parties is a bill that would increase it. While the public is uninterested in global warming, while costly regulations could not pass a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate, while the scientific consensus behind the green agenda is, at the very least, fraying, the president says that climate change is the greatest threat to the United States. While Americans tell pollsters their economic situation has not improved, and that things are headed in the wrong direction—while even Democratic economists acknowledge the despondent state of the middle class—the president travels to Chicago to celebrate his economic recovery.

These disjunctions and confusions, these missteps, scandals, and miscalculations, have hurt Obama’s approval numbers. They endanger the Democratic Senate majority, contribute to the widespread sense of disorder and decay, shatter trust in government and in public institutions. They have put into stark relief a political class dominated by liberal partisans, captured by ideas and interests removed from those of ordinary Americans. The stories of ineptitude or malfeasance that appear in the daily newspaper are more than examples of high ideals executed poorly. They are examples of the pursuit of ideas—of equality and diversity and progress and centralization and environmentalism and globalization—to absurd and self-destructive limits.

It is not “panicking” nor is to an attempt to spread panic when legitimate questions about public policy — and the ability of those whose responsibility it is to implement that policy — are asked. But apparently, recommending precautions that the administration says are unnecessary (regarding a disease with a mortality rate of over 50%) is grounds for some to accuse critics of trying to spread hysteria.

Here’s David Nather writing in Politico:

For once, President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are on the same page. At separate briefings on the Ebola crisis, Obama administration officials and Perry have delivered the same message: Don’t panic — the health authorities know what they’re doing.

But for other Republicans — and conservative media outlets — it’s time for panic.

The likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates — except for Perry — are practically lining up to warn that the Obama administration isn’t doing enough to keep Ebola out of the United States, now that Dallas is dealing with the nation’s first confirmed case.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky declared on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that “this could get beyond our control” and worried, “Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers catch Ebola?”

Sen. Ted Cruz — Perry’s Texas colleague — raised the prospect of restricting or banning flights to the West African countries that are hardest hit by the disease, noting in a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration that some African nations and certain airlines have already imposed their own flight bans.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin floated the idea of quarantining airline passengers in the affected African countries before they could fly out. “We’re learning a lot about how it’s spread but the question is ‘How can a person just jump on a plane and get here without a quarantine period of 21 days,’ which I believe is recommended,” he said on a radio talk show Wednesday. A spokesman for Ryan says the congressman misspoke and was referencing a recommendation to be monitored for 21 days.

And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says the United States should cut off flights from those countries. “President Obama said it was ‘unlikely’ that Ebola would reach the U.S. Well, it has, and we need to protect our people,” he said in a statement Friday.

In fact, of the 2016 Republican hopefuls who have commented on the Ebola crisis, Perry is the only one who has been a reassuring voice.

In other words, Perry is the only potential candidate who hasn’t ripped the Obama administration for their inexplicable policy of carrying on with travel from Ebola-afflicted countries almost as if there was nothing to worry about. None of the policy recommendations by Republicans are off base or out of line. They are sensible, reasonable, and may end up being necessary. How this demonstrates “panic” or spreads hysteria is beyond me.

Perhaps Nather should look to his colleagues as the panic-spreaders in this situation:

But while it’s fine for the media to tell us not to panic about Ebola, let’s bear in mind that the people most likely to panic about Ebola are the media. Everyday citizens tend to keep their heads in situations like this. As I wrote half a decade ago, when the purported panic on the horizon involved swine flu, “It’s easy to find examples of public anxiety, with every hypochondriac in the country fretting that the cold his kid always catches this time of year was actually the killer flu. But panic? Where’s the evidence of that?” Going through a series of stories that were supposed to show flu hysteria, I was underwhelmed. A Time feature, for example, had a headline that said a “swine flu panic” had hit Mexico, but the actual article didn’t demonstrate that.

Of course, the press has a built in motive to spread panic. Panicked people voraciously consume information, and who better to stoke that panic by creating a vicious circle of fear than the media?

Continetti tells us just what it is we should be afraid of:

Not only do I disagree with the constant stream of soothing and complacent rhetoric from Dr. Zeke’s friends in government and media. I also believe it is entirely rational to fear the possibility of a major Ebola outbreak, of a threat to the president and his family, of jihadists crossing the border, of a large-scale European or Asian war, of nuclear proliferation, of terrorists detonating a weapon of mass destruction. These dangers are real, and pressing, and though the probability of their occurrence is not high, it is amplified by the staggering incompetence and failure and misplaced priorities of the U.S. government. It is not Ebola I am afraid of. It is our government’s ability to deal with Ebola.

Given all that we’ve seen in nearly six years from these government managers, it is only acting as a responsible citizen to question whether this White House can deal with a serious public health crisis that has the potential — if managed incorrectly or incompetently — to kill thousands of citizens.