It wasn’t that long ago.
Our nation’s media went on high alert. Republicans fell all over themselves trying to spread politically-harvestable panic and blaming President Obama for endangering our nation. In Vermont, all eyes turned to the curious story of a homeless guy who called himself a doctor. Yup, remember Peter Italia?
It was the fall of 2014, and the cause of the imminent apocalypse was the Ebola virus.
Well, we’re still here. And look at this notice from the Vermont Department of Health:
In a Health Advisory on October 31, 2014, the Health Department issued Ebola preparedness guidance for health care settings. The guidance included an Ebola-specific patient advisory sign that could be used to help identify patients with Ebola virus disease. Use of this sign may now be discontinued.
Widespread transmission of Ebola in West Africa has been controlled, although additional cases may continue to occur sporadically. The CDC has changed its country classification for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to “countries with former widespread transmission and current, established control measures.” As a result, the Health Department has discontinued active monitoring for individuals who have returned from travel to these countries.
(Bold type used by the Health Department.) How about that. Quite impressive, really. I remember when it was thought impossible to control a new virus in a place as dark, untamed, and backward as the stereotype of Africa we have in our minds. The best we could do was to wall ourselves off.
Of course, we moved on from that apocalypse long ago, so you might be forgiven for not remembering the brief Ebola Panic that infected far more people than the Ebola virus itself ever did. Fortunately, the only health effects of Ebola Panic are transitory elevations in blood pressure and a compulsion to watch cable news.
It’d be helpful if our media paid as much attention to successful conclusions as they do to potential threats, but after all, healthy people aren’t news. And successful coordinated action by governments definitely isn’t news.
Just as a reminder, here’s a sampling of the nonsense that prominent conservatives were peddling less than a year and a half ago. Starting with — guess who — Donald J. Trump.
“I mean we have virtually incompetent leadership,” he continued. “So why would anybody trust our government to handle this crisis? And to think that we’re allowing people from West Africa to come in, and many of them are unchecked, come in and potentially cause a tremendous problem.”
Not to be outdone, here’s our favorite sociopathic Senator, Ted Cruz:
“We should be less concerned about giving the public the feeling that the government is on top of this and more concerned about the government actually being on top of it,” Cruz said on CNN’s State of the Union and called again for a ban on travel from Ebola-affected countries as a “basic, common-sense step.”
That “ban” thing is a popular Republican meme, isn’t it? In fact, three governors with presidential aspirations — Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and “the adult in the room” John Kasich — all called for a travel ban. And yet somehow we stopped Ebola without closing our borders or building walls.
Republican officeholders were relatively moderate compared to the flamethrowers in right-wing media. For instance, here’s John Nolte, writer for Breitbart News:
“In a situation where an Ebola outbreak could in some way hurt President Obama’s popularity numbers or agenda, do I believe the Obama Administration is morally corrupt to the point where they would put politics above the safety of the public?”
…”Were Ebola to creep over the Southern border in the form of an illegal immigrant, that could hurt this Administration’s push to legalize 11 million Democrats. There is no doubt in my mind, the Administration would cover this up for as long as it could.”
Fox News blabberer Gretchen Carlson:
“What more and more people seem to be asking about Ebola now isn’t that they’re necessarily scared about actually getting the disease, but that they’re scared the government agencies responsible with helping us if we do get sick might not be up to the task.”
Oh, and we can’t do this Honor Roll without Rush Limbaugh, can we?
What they’ve earned is distrust. Mistrust. What they’ve earned is the realization that they’re not competent. We don’t have the best and brightest and the smartest in these key positions, and not just here. It’s true in the judiciary, it’s true at all these government bureaucracies, and every day the news is filled with evidence of this.
Sorry, Rush. You must be thinking of the Bush administration’s Katrina response or their handling of two disastrous wars. Or perhaps Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s poisoning of the Flint water system.
In that context, I suppose the Republican panic is kind of understandable. Their track record of “leadership” is enough to inspire the kind of mistrust they project onto President Obama. If Ebola had happened under a President Cruz or a President Rubio, then I’d have my doubts and fears as well.
But a decent, competent government turned out to be up to the challenge. We do face real problems, but Ebola did not kill us all.