The Ebola Weapon

Every family has a bad seed, or at least an oddball, which might explain Tucker Carlson – who grew up in Carlsbad, the very affluent resort town just north of San Diego, and immediately north of La Jolla, the extremely affluent resort town just north of San Diego, where Mitt Romney just built that mansion with the elevator for his cars. Carlson’s father was a news anchor up here in Los Angeles, and then our ambassador to the Seychelles – it seems we do have one – but he was later president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and director of Voice of America. He was exiled to the middle of the ocean for only a short time, and Carlson’s mother is an heiress to the Swanson food-conglomerate fortune – there used to be a lot of money in frozen dinners – and Carlson’s great-uncle was Senator J. William Fulbright – the famous internationalist who opposed the Vietnam War with deadly logic and great scholarship. In fact there’s his Fulbright Program to send people off to study international relations abroad, so they don’t do stupid stuff, or at least to study something abroad, so they understand the world. Fifty-three Fulbright fellows have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, but Fulbright’s great-nephew was not one of them. Tucker Carlson grew up to be a conservative pundit. He was glib. The bow-tie was cute. And no one took him very seriously.

There were troubles all along. Carlson joined CNN as its youngest anchor ever and was later tapped to co-host their political shouting show Crossfire – which CNN is still trying to make work. It certainly didn’t work with Carlson, who turned to be no more than a smug asshole, and he certainly should have never interviewed Jon Stewart in 2004 – because Stewart called Carlson and his liberal co-host Paul Begala “partisan hacks” and asked them to “stop hurting America” – and then it got really hot. Stewart, however, had a point. Sneering and name-calling was tearing the county apart – this was when John Kerry, the French-looking coward, was campaigning to unseat George Bush, the clueless cowboy. Shouting about that clarified nothing, and what CNN was doing certainly wasn’t journalism. Stewart stayed after the show at CNN that day and discussed this with their management, and everyone interviewed Stewart about this for a week or two. Everyone decided he was right. CNN dropped the show. It had been lively, and it had been irresponsible. Carlson was out of a job.

MSNBC picked up Carlson after that and gave him his own show, to show that they weren’t really total bleeding-heart liberals and could be fair about things, but that didn’t last long. Tucker Carlson was still a glib asshole and a mean bastard who smiled and sneered. MSNBC cut him loose and he ended up at Fox News, as a contributor. Even Fox News wouldn’t give him his own show – he just helps out. That’s why he started The Daily Caller – a conservative web news service that lets America know what’s really going on, not that crap on the news wires and on CNN and in the lamestream media. There’s still a lot of sneering going on. Carlson is still that smug and entitled teenager from Carlsbad, down the coast, still making fun of folks not as cool as him. The Daily Caller now refers to Barack Obama as President Ebola – all he had to do is agree with the CDC years ago and shut down air travel from nasty places with all those dark people, and we’d have no Ebola here now. But no, Obama listened to the airline executives and the civil libertarians and the damned internationalist fools – so he’s President Ebola now. The Daily Caller has graphics and everything. It’s clever. It’s smug. It’s high school stuff. Tucker Carlson turned forty-five in May.

Jon Stewart had been right ten years earlier – Tucker Carlson was a “real dick” – but this President Ebola thing was inevitable. It’s an election year again. The Senate is up for grabs, and key governorships are too, and even if Obama is not running, he is the top Democrat. Make him look bad and all Democrats look bad. They’re led by President Ebola. Ebola is not a medical issue, really. It’s a political issue.

The “nice” Republican, who is more of a libertarian, also sees the political issue here:

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, warned that the U.S. could be underestimating the potential for Ebola to wreak havoc in the U.S. because of “political correctness.”

“It’s a big mistake to underestimate the potential for problems worldwide,” Paul said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” Tuesday.

Citing reassurances by the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tom Frieden, that there was little risk of a traveler bringing Ebola to the United States and causing an outbreak, Paul countered, “I really think that it is being dominated by political correctness and I think because of political correctness we’re not really making sound, rational, scientific decisions on this.”

Implicit in that is the idea that our refusal to offend those hopeless black folks over in Africa, or African-Americans here, will kill us all. Political correctness will kill us all. What seem like sound, rational, scientific decisions, from all these scientists and epidemiologists, might not be. Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade – even if that “spade” word offends people. Rand Paul didn’t use that word, but he might as well have. He’s a far more subtle name-caller than Tucker Carlson.

And then there’s Benghazi:

Fox News host Mike Huckabee is claiming the American public should distrust statements made by President Obama and the federal government about the spread of Ebola because they have purportedly lied about the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

During the October 4 broadcast of Huckabee, the former Arkansas Republican governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate said that “the Ebola scare goes to the heart of a simple question: do you trust the government. Audience, do you trust the government?” After Huckabee’s audience responded no, Huckabee replied: “And why would you?” …

Huckabee concluded his Fox commentary by claiming he’s “feeling a little sick myself, but it’s not Ebola. I’m just sick of a government that I’m paying for telling me not to worry and just trust them. I wish I could, but if they repeatedly lie to me I just don’t believe them anymore.”

Frank Rich, who left the New York Times for New York Magazine – just another address in Manhattan – considers the politicization of a rather straightforward health issue and adds this:

I am waiting for Donald Trump to weigh in so we can have the definitive explanation of how President Obama has masterminded the spread of Ebola. True, his birthplace of Kenya is in East, not West, Africa, but I imagine Trump’s investigators will discover some heretofore unknown Obamas in Liberia, including those who infected Duncan prior to dispatching him to the red state of Texas to target Ted Cruz.

While we wait for Trump’s Tweets on all this, let’s step back one moment and marvel at the way anything and everything can be politicized in America.

That’s where Rich comes up with something curious:

A new Pew survey finds that only 48 percent of Republicans (as opposed to 69 percent of Democrats) have confidence in the ability of government to deal with Ebola. You’d think this might be because Republicans intrinsically are suspicious of big government, but Pew helpfully points out that when it asked the same question in 2005 during an outbreak of bird flu, 74 percent of Republicans had confidence in the government (as opposed to 35 percent of Democrats).

In 2005 the Republicans ran the government. They said government worked. In 2014 they don’t run the government, so of course government doesn’t work. That’s rather simple, but then this particular disease comes from Africa, and so did Obama’s father, and so much else that is so scary. That’ll rile up the base, but there’s a long way to go with everyone else:

The good news is that Pew also finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans – 67 percent – does not fear being exposed to the Ebola virus. It’ll be interesting to watch that number between now and Election Day as the president’s political nemeses do everything they can to spread panic about Ebola and attach that panic to Obama.

Tucker Carlson is doing his part to spread that panic, as in Rand Paul, as is Mike Huckabee, and of these last two, and the other Republicans carrying this forward, Frank Rich says this:

All this fire is coming from self-styled Reagan Republicans. Let us not forget that Reagan legacy in reacting to a spiraling health crisis. The first cases of the AIDS epidemic in America were reported in 1981; he didn’t give a serious address about the disease until 1987, after thousands of Americans had died. Pat Buchanan, Reagan’s communications director, called AIDS “nature’s revenge on gay men.” There’s political correctness for you.

Let it be further noted that one Republican with presidential aspirations, Rick Perry, has departed from his party’s line and expressed confidence in America’s ability to deal with Ebola. Trustworthy veterans of the infectious-disease battles, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, a major figure in the AIDS battle, agree. Obama is doing all he can. It is Republicans in Congress who are blocking the full $1 billion administration request to speed American military assistance to West Africa.

Hey, that money is going to Africa, a dark place, so one must be very careful:

The lawmakers are demanding detailed plans on uses for the funds, precautions to keep military personnel from contracting the deadly virus and prevent the mission from turning into an expensive, long-term Pentagon commitment.

The lawmakers have held firm in these demands despite the first Ebola case being diagnosed in the United States in recent days, releasing only $50 million of the request to shift $1 billion from the Defense Department’s war operations budget.

Senator James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the recent cases involving Americans show that much is still unknown about protecting people in infected communities.

At least when the Republicans were in charge they didn’t just throw money around:

Between $1.2 billion and $1.6 billion in Iraqi reconstruction funds were stolen after the 2003 American invasion and moved to rural Lebanon, a former United States investigator said for the first time, but the trail ended there.

In the chaos of post-war Iraq, $12bn-$14bn was withdrawn from Iraqi government bank accounts in the US and flown to the country to provide a quick financial infusion for the new Iraqi government and the country’s battered economy, according to a report in The New York Times. But billions went unaccounted for, the newspaper said.

Stuart Bowen, an American lawyer, was appointed by then-president George W Bush, who he had previously worked with, to track down the missing money. Much of the money was probably used by the Iraqi government in some way, Bowen concluded. But for years Bowen could not account for billions more until his investigators finally had a breakthrough, discovering that $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion had been stolen and moved to a bunker in rural Lebanon for safe keeping.

Well, they found it, didn’t they? That’s eventual fiscal responsibility, even if our folks can’t get near the bunker yet, to see if any of that money is still there. Using that money, about the same amount that the White House and military is requesting to fix the Ebola problem at the source, will have to wait. Republicans know how to be careful about money. They’re the fiscally responsible ones here.

That may have just bit them in the ass:

As the federal government frantically works to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and as it responds to a second diagnosis of the disease at home, one of the country’s top health officials says a vaccine likely would have already been discovered were it not for budget cuts.

Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said that a decade of stagnant spending has “slowed down” research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. As a result, he said, the international community has been left playing catch-up on a potentially avoidable humanitarian catastrophe.

“NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'” Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”

It’s not just the production of a vaccine that has been hampered by money shortfalls. Collins also said that some therapeutics to fight Ebola “were on a slower track than would’ve been ideal, or that would have happened if we had been on a stable research support trajectory.”

“We would have been a year or two ahead of where we are, which would have made all the difference,” he said.

That stagnant spending would not have happened but for the Republicans, and the Democrats pounced:

Democrats are trying to turn GOP-backed budget cuts to health agencies into a bigger political issue, seizing on the Ebola outbreak to argue the cuts have slowed the U.S. response.

They are pointing their fingers at the sequester, which introduced automatic spending cuts to the government in 2013 that Democrats say hurt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, told The Hill the bulk of the cuts were “dictated primarily by the Sequester,” and argued Democrats and President Obama have offered proposals that would repeal it.

“All you have to do is compare the budgets and you’ll find the president’s budget and budgets proposed by the Democrats had more responsible funding levels for these agencies – funding levels that would allow them to fulfill their responsibilities in a more effective manner,” he added.

Democrat after Democrat piled on:

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), said Republicans have “neglected” health agencies since they took over the House majority.

“From every version of the Ryan Budget to the Budget Control Act and sequestration, our crucial biomedical research and response institutions have been forced to do more with less, and sometimes less with less,” said DeLauro, the ranking member on the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “That needs to end.”

Republicans, for their part, have argued it was the White House that introduced the idea of the Sequester, which enforced mandatory spending cuts across the government to defense and non-defense budgets.

Yeah, the White House introduced the idea, because the Republicans would have shut down the government unless there were massive spending cuts, mostly to social programs and other liberal nonsense. The White House didn’t expect the Republicans would agree to massive and indiscriminant mandatory across-the-board cut to everything, including defense, of all things. They did agree – because a crippled government, with everything failing would make Obama look bad. They got what they wanted:

The CDC’s budget in 2010 was nearly $6.5 billion, but fell to $5.8 billion in fiscal 2014. Likewise, the NIH budget peaked in 2010 at $31.2 billion and fell to $30.6 billion this year. … NIH and CDC budgets would have been even lower but for the 2013 budget deal between Budget Committee Chairmen Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), which restored some sequester cuts to the two agencies.

Now they want to fix this:

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) want to get rid of not only sequester spending cuts to the Pentagon, but to the NIH and CDC.

“I want to sit down with Senator McCain, Jack Reed, Dianne Feinstein, a coalition of the willing, to replace these defense and non-defense cuts that are destroying our ability to protect our country, do something like Simpson-Bowles, where Republicans have to give on revenue, close some tax deductions in the tax code,” Graham said on CNN last week. Reed (R.I.) and Feinstein (Calif.) are two Democratic senators who could be key players in the debate.

That’s nice, but that’s not now:

Senior CDC and NIH officials in late September told lawmakers that budget cuts had “eroded” their ability to respond to Ebola. Dr. Beth Bell, director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said the agency hasn’t fully recovered from the sequestration cuts.

There are consequences to budget cuts, and if the Republicans are going to call the guy President Ebola from here on out, well, two can play at that game:

A new TV ad blames prominent Republicans for Ebola deaths, attacking them for championing spending cuts that have gone after emergency public health funding for containing disease outbreaks.

The one minute ad, called “Republican Cuts Kill,” splices grueling images of body bags and workers in hazmat suits with footage of top Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (OH) calling for spending cuts. It also features 2014 Republican Senate candidates Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Pat Roberts of Kansas. …

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, is shown in the ad lamenting the “damaging” spending reductions, including the automatic sequester-cuts of 2011.

The ad will run in Kentucky, North Carolina, South Dakota and Kansas — where the close Senate races are. This particular virus has been weaponized, turned into a political weapon.

Then it got a bit bizarre:

If a liberal group is going to blame Republicans for the Ebola outbreak, RedState editor Erick Erickson is going to blame “fat lesbians.”

Following the release of a brutal ad from the Agenda Project Action Fund that attacks the likes of Mitch McConnell and Pat Roberts for budget cuts, Erickson offered the GOP some material to fight back, highlighting examples of what he deemed as a wasteful use of federal dollars.

“For example, instead of studying Ebola, the National Institutes of Health were studying the propensity of lesbians to be fat,” Erickson wrote Monday on his blog, providing a link to a study on the link between sexual orientation and obesity.

Going forward, this isn’t going to be pretty. Erick Erickson, by the way, was a CNN contributor for a time, paid to weigh in on the topics of the day, and as with Tucker Carlson, CNN cut him loose. He was just one more of those smug conservative flame-throwers who once made CNN look irresponsible and desperate for ratings. They must have heard the echoes of what Jon Stewart had said long ago, but the odd thing is that Erick Erickson had a different back-up plan than Tucker Carlson had:

Erickson announced earlier this year that he was accepted to seminary, calling it part of his journey “to glorify God more fully in this multidimensional platform of a career God has blessed me with.”

Apparently God has called him to be a sneering and dismissive bully, like Jesus, or something. The seminary is not identified. He will, however, be out of circulation for a time.

Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller won’t be. Ebola will be the issue for the next month. There’s an election coming up – but of course Ebola isn’t the issue at all. It’s only a weapon. And although Tucker Carlson grew up down the coast here in Carlsbad, he was actually born in San Francisco – Nancy Pelosi Land, where all the gay people happily live. Maybe that can be weaponized too. Everything can be weaponized.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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