Ebola and the Islamic State: this election's October surprises

The president’s largely ineffective responses to the threats of Ebola and the Islamic State have battered his approval ratings and made it harder for Democrats to swim away from his sinking ship.

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    James Knight of US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases trains US Army soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), who are earmarked for the fight against Ebola, before their deployment to West Africa, at Fort Campbell, Ky., on Thursday. The US military is ramping up its response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where it has already killed more than 3,400 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
    Harrison McClary/Reuters
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What do the American people really care about?



Federal spending?

Minimum wage?  Income inequality?  Social security?  Jobs?

The midterm elections?  (That was a joke by the way. Nobody cares about the midterm elections, except for the candidates and their extended families)

None of the above.

The American people care only about the Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS or ISIL, and Ebola.

I betcha if you did some sort of quantitative survey, the No. 1 and No. 2 that inquiring minds click on has to do with the newest terrorist threat coming from the Middle East and the newest version of the Black Plague coming from Africa.

IS and Ebola dominate the headlines, kind of like Notre Dame has dominated the Naval Academy in football over the last six decades.

In the Age of Anxiety, the average American believes the worst about these two threats.

Some conservatives believe that Ebola is flying over the border and think that the president is allowing this to happen to undermine America.

Louis Farrakhan thinks that Ebola is a white man’s plot to kill black people.

IS's beheading of a couple of journalists has crystallized the threat of Muslim extremism more than any other single event in the last five years.

It has even inspired a debate on Real Time with Bill Maher.

Maher thinks that the bombing campaign is counter-productive but thinks that the threat of Islamic extremism is not taken seriously by liberals.

Ben Affleck, the mouthpiece of the liberals, basically thinks that the HBO comedian is a racist and called him out on his show.

The bigger point is that IS has attracted the attention of Hollywood, Main Street, and Peoria perhaps more than anything other than Ebola.

These are our twin October surprises.

The president’s largely ineffective responses to both have battered his approval ratings and made it harder for Democrats to swim away from his sinking ship.

It’s so bad that Leon Panetta, David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs, Hillary Clinton and a host of others are taking pot shots not at John Boehner or Mitch McConnell, but at the president himself.

None of this bodes very well for the president’s party when the election rolls around next month.

And lest you forget, there’s an election next month.

John Feehery publishes his Feehery Theory blog at

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