The threat of Ebola certain has produced a wave of unreasoning panic! Not among the people of America, mind you. They’re actually taking it fairly well. They’re concerned by what they’ve seen so far. People who have valid reasons to fear exposure for themselves, or their children, have taken some actions that the authorities dismiss as excessive, such as Dallas parents keeping their kids home from school after first- and second-hand contact with Patient One, Thomas Eric Duncan.
But the authorities are the ones who are panicking, from butt-covering bureaucrats to the media culture that reveres Big Government, and can’t believe it stepped on a rake when taking its very first step into Ebola’s backyard. The people grabbing our shoulders and screaming “DON’T PANIC!” into our faces are the ones freaking out.
Reuters reported on Sunday that “U.S. health officials have fielded about as many as 100 potential cases of Ebola since the first patient with the deadly virus was identified in the United States, but no new infections have been found.” That’s… not so bad, is it? Saturation media coverage over a terrifying flesh-eating disease, a series of government pratfalls that left a hundred people needlessly threatened by exposure to Duncan alone… and only a hundred people nationwide have declared themselves serious Ebola risks in need of screening? I’d say the American people are being remarkably calm about all this, including the people who could potentially have been exposed through Thomas Eric Duncan’s Excellent Adventure.
What really gets the elite’s goat is watching the public take extra precautions because they just watched a three-ring circus act of incompetence. Americans aren’t panicking… but there are years’ worth of dropped balls bouncing on Big Government’s court. The media elite doesn’t understand how much faith has been lost in the authorities during the Obama years, when everything cost billions of dollars, but nothing worked. Now, as Byron York put it, “in just two weeks, Obama has been proved completely wrong about Ebola.” This is what the President said two weeks ago:
In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, we’ve taken new measures so that we’re prepared here at home. We’re working to help flight crews identify people who are sick, and more labs across our country now have the capacity to quickly test for the virus. We’re working with hospitals to make sure that they are prepared, and to ensure that our doctors, our nurses and our medical staff are trained, are ready, and are able to deal with a possible case safely.
He also boasted of the “world-class facilities and professionals ready to respond.” And yet, two weeks later, an unemployed man from Liberia who caught Ebola after taking a taxi ride with a dying victim decided his odds of survival were much higher if he could get to the United States, so he checked off the “no, I haven’t been exposed to Ebola” box on a form, took a flight to Dallas that had a three-hour layover at Dulles, became violently ill, stopped in at a hospital that shrugged and sent him home after shooting him up with useless antibiotics, came into contact with a hundred people – including children – while contagious, and contaminated the hell out of an apartment that was not locked down or sanitized for days. The enduring image from the aftermath is a dude in a T-shirt using a pressure washer to clean infected vomit off the sidewalk outside the apartment complex.
It’s not as if the system has learned from its mistakes. The same President who shut down air travel into Israel to score cheap political points against its government refuses to institute travel bans from the Ebola hot zone. We’ve been given reasons for this reluctance ranging from fears that it would be interpreted as racist, to concerns that it would prove unduly inconvenient to the people of West Africa, to the amazing assertion that it’s not worth doing because it wouldn’t be 100 percent effective at preventing the spread of the contagion. (Say, isn’t this the same President who told us draconian gun laws were worth any amount of damage to our Constitutional rights, provided they save “just one life?”)
The director of the CDC actually claimed that a travel ban to the infected regions could make the outbreak worse, because it would make it harder for foreign medical teams to access the region… as if that has anything whatsoever to do with revoking Liberian visa applications or forbidding inbound commercial passengers. An Ebola expert interviewed on CNN asserted that the history of the American slave trade gave us a special responsibility to take care of Libera’s problems, since it was “founded in the 1820s, 1830s because of American slavery.”
The American border remains as porous as ever, with another border-smashing Presidential amnesty order on the table, just as soon as those pesky midterm elections are over. In case you were wondering: yes, people from the Ebola-infected regions of West Africa have been caught trying to sneak across the southern border, including people from Thomas Duncan’s old stomping grounds in Liberia. But that doesn’t count for much against the open-borders political agenda, does it? A few cases of American Ebola in the years to come would be a small price to pay for keeping that border nice and soft.
In light of all this, the response from the American public has been generally reasonable, even subdued, even as the elites fan out across the Sunday-show battleground to tear their hair out over our alleged panic. At the moment, we have every reason to believe the authorities are not ready to handle Ebola, for reasons of both bureaucratic incompetence and ideological blindness. In fact, we have hard evidence that this is the case. We’d like to see some improvement, but we’re not ready to take that on faith, especially since we can already see the traumatized bureaucracy going into a defensive crouch. The only thing the current American system of government is totally inoculated against is responsibility.
It’s good that the hundred people potentially exposed to Ebola by Thomas Duncan has been whittled down to ten cases of serious concern… but it matters that a hundred people were exposed to elevated risk, and it could have easily been prevented. I suspect the American people will not forget that, no matter how loudly officials, politicians, and pundits willfully mistake their anger at incompetence for panic over an unlikely pandemic.