Arizona’s angry old man, Senator John McCain, the man who has never been right about anything in his life, is still somehow the heartthrob of the Sunday morning bobble-heads. I guess the bobble-heads in the Beltway media see McCain as a kindred spirit. He is frequently as inane and recklessly wrong as they are, and yet they all manage to keep their jobs. It’s an exclusive club to which they all belong.
When McCain is not war mongering for yet another war or to bomb some country to defend America’s honor over some offense, he engages in reckless fear mongering. On Sunday, McCain had a date with Candy “cringe worthy” Crowley at TeaNN’s (formerly known as CNN) State of the Union, and the topic was Ebola. Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times takes it from here. Why don’t we have an Ebola ‘czar,’ Sen. McCain? Because of the NRA:
Donning the mantle of the nation’s scaremonger-in-chief, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., appeared Sunday morning on CNN to weigh in on the latest Ebola news. The nugget he and host Candy Crowley were chewing over was that a healthcare worker who had been helping to care for Thomas Duncan, the Ebola patient who died Wednesday in Dallas, has contracted the disease despite wearing protective gear.
Prompted by Crowley, McCain complained, “We were told there would never be a case of Ebola in the United States and obviously that’s not correct.” He said, “There has to be some kind of czar” to manage the disease in the U.S. “I’d like to know who’s in charge, among other things.”
Let’s stop right there. McCain and many others have asserted this claim “We were told there would never be a case of Ebola in the United States” in recent weeks, in particular FAUX News and Beltway media villagers (like Tweety Matthews at MSNBC who was pissing himself hysterical a week or two ago on a segment of his show that I was unfortunate enough to have caught. What an embarrassment.)
PolitiFact (yes, I know) fact checked John McCain’s statement on TeaNN on Sunday and — surprise! — rated it “False.” McCain: We were ‘told’ there’d be no Ebola in the United States. “Based on public statements, Obama and CDC officials have repeatedly said there’s a chance an Ebola case could appear in the United States, but the possibility of an outbreak is extremely low. We found no instance in which an official said Ebola would “never” make it here — rather, it has always been acknowledged as a possibility.”
By the way, Candy “cringe worthy” Crowley made no effort to correct McCain or to set the record straight. She allowed McCain’s false statement to go unchallenged and to mislead viewers. Nice job, “cringe worthy.”
Back to Hiltzik —
These statements are evidence as good as you’ll ever find of the viral outbreak of fatuous misinformation and opportunistic alarmism that has reduced governing in Washington to a bedridden wreck. Let’s unpack them.
To begin with, it’s unclear who told Sen. McCain “there would never be a case of Ebola in the United States.” The most categorical statements that have come from the White House, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the current outbreak are that the risk to the public is “minimal.” That assessment is still true. If Sen. McCain’s constituents are “not comforted,” as he said, one reason is the fact-free utterances of people like him, midwifed by CNN.
Both the NIH and CDC have issued detailed protocols for identification and treatment of possible Ebola patients in the U.S. The NIH information is here. The CDC, on its Ebola page, states, “Although the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is very low, CDC and partners are taking precautions to prevent this from happening.”
Obviously that’s very different from saying “there would never be a case of Ebola in the United States”; it’s an acknowledgement that there could be cases, and a discussion of how to identify and manage them. No credible professionals have come forward to challenge the CDC assessment that the risk of an outbreak in the U.S. is “very low.”
Turning to McCain’s call for an Ebola “czar,” and leaving aside his own earlier grousing that the Obama administration has “more czars than the Romanovs,” traditionally the nation’s public health “czar” is the surgeon general. The surgeon general is the federal officer best positioned to communicate down-to-earth realities about public health issues — think of C. Everett Koop’s campaign against smoking — in judicious terms, quelling unnecessary alarms.
At the moment, we don’t have a surgeon general. And for that, blame belongs to the fourth branch of government, the National Rifle Assn.
The NRA has put the kibosh on Dr. Vivek Murthy, whom President Obama nominated to the post last November, after the resignation of Surgeon Gen. Regina Benjamin. The NRA’s complaint was that Murthy called guns “a health care issue” in a 2012 tweet. It’s worth noting that the tweet came out almost two months, to the day, before the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, in which Adam Lanza’s gunfire took the lives of 20 children and six adults. One might take Murthy’s comment as, if anything, a grotesque understatement.
The NRA’s position sealed the opposition to Murthy’s confirmation among Senate Republicans and red-state Democrats. The appointment has been hanging in limbo ever since. During his TV appearance Sunday, did McCain call for action on Murthy’s nomination? No. It never came up. [Candy “cringe worthy” Crowley never asked.]
Can any rational person really disagree that guns are a healthcare issue? In the average year, nearly 32,000 people die from gunshots in the U.S. and another 75,000 are injured. Number of deaths from Ebola in the U.S.: one.
Sen. McCain’s home state of Arizona, where he says his constituents are “not comforted” about Ebola, boasts the eighth-highest rate of deaths by firearms in the nation, 14.6 per 100,000 residents. Number of Arizona deaths from Ebola, per 100,000: zero.
Arizona has no prohibitions on assault rifles, magazine capacities or open carry. It does, however, have Sen. McCain, to distract its residents from the real threats to their health by pointing them toward a pseudothreat.
In a related Ebola matter, it turns out that the U.S. may not have been as prepared as it otherwise would have been due to the GOP’s Budget Sequester cutting funds for health care research. Charles Pierce at Esquire explains in Here’s Some Stupid For Lunch:
Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, has had enough of the bullshit, thank you very much, and has some thoughts he’d like to share about some of the cafe’s regulars.
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.
And, over in the corner, Paul Ryan stares a hole in his daily bowl of Cream of Stupid soup, his zombie eyes fixed and unblinking.