Just under one month ago, the president of the United States weighed in on Ebola. At that time, there were no Ebola cases inside the United States.
CNN reported, September 16, 2014.
“Right now, the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is very low,” [Obama] said, “but that risk would only increase if there were not a robust response on the part of the United States.”
Was there a “robust response?”
The President noted a number of precautionary steps that are being taken in the United States to prevent the disease from spreading here.
The government has stepped up screening at West African airports. It has increased education for flight crews to teach them what to watch for with people who may be sick. It has worked with hospitals and health care workers to prepare them in case there is a domestic Ebola problem.
How did those precautionary steps work out?
The president also touted a UN meeting on Ebola.
“This is a daunting task, but here’s what gives us hope. The world knows how to fight this disease. It’s not a mystery. We know the science. We know how to prevent it from spreading. We know how to care for those who contract it. We know that if we take the proper steps, we can save lives. But we have to act fast,” Obama said.
“We can’t dawdle on this one. We have to move with force and make sure that we are catching this as best we can, given that it has already broken out in ways that we have not seen before.”
“The science is settled,” in other words. But viruses mutate, and government seldom has every single answer, and humans tend to do what they want — especially when they don’t know that they’re carriers.
We may “know how to prevent it from spreading,” but we did not actually prevent it from spreading. It spread from one patient to two more so far, in a major hospital in a major city. What if Mr. Duncan had not gone to Dallas, a city with world-class healthcare, but to a much smaller city? What if he had ended up in any of the rural county hospitals in the United States?
This is how Obama “leads.” He visits a place that’s central to a story (unless it’s politically inconvenient to him, as during the border crisis, in which case he derides “photo-ops”). At that place, he makes strong remarks that could have been written by any press release writer. He touts a meeting. He calls on the world to act.
Then he heads out either to a fundraiser or to play golf.
And the band plays on.