How Democrats are playing politics with Ebola

Democrats say that, because Republicans want to decrease spending – and launched the sequester – they have cut critical resources that could have gone to pay for an Ebola vaccine. Trouble is, it isn't true. 

LM Otero/AP
A police line tape marks where the news media is set up to watch The Village Bend East apartments where a second healthcare worker lives that tested positive for Ebola, on Wednesday, in Dallas. Fears of the Ebola virus deepened with word that the health-care worker, a nurse, caught the disease from a patient in Dallas, and flew across the Midwest aboard an airliner the day before she was diagnosed.

The Democrats are trying to tie Ebola to the Republicans.

This is a political season, so this is not surprising.

The theory goes that because Republicans want to cut spending, they have cut critical resources that could have gone to pay for an Ebola vaccine.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) director even directly said that if it weren’t for budget cuts, we wouldn’t be having this Ebola problem.

Democrats, more broadly, have been blaming the sequester on Republicans, and they are making the point that if there had been no sequester, there would have been ample resources to combat Ebola.

There are several problems with this theory.

First, the sequester was Obama’s idea. He pushed it because he didn’t want to make entitlement cuts.

Second, the president never asked directly for an Ebola “supplemental” or anything close to it. Had he said:  “I need $2 billion to deal with Ebola,” he would have some ground to stand on.

But he could never quite tear himself away from the golf course to spend any time worrying about Ebola. He never requested a supplemental to pay for Ebola spending. He never asked Congress for any help on Ebola.

Third, the Republicans wanted to cut spending because the president, when the Democrats controlled the Congress, went on a spending binge, which squandered a trillion dollars of taxpayer money.  Remember Solyndra?

There is no evidence that part of the president’s stimulus package included an Ebola-fighting initiative.

In fact, when Republicans took over in 2010, Ebola was but a faint rumor of impending doom, the stuff of horror movies.

That being said, nothing changes minds quicker than a devastating virus.

You want to see civil liberties being curtailed? Wait until another nurse comes down with Ebola.

You want to see flights shut down between Africa and America?

You want see our borders be really sealed tight?

We are entering the panic zone here, folks.

And nobody is making the case that President Obama is showing any great leadership traits here.

If anything, the president is getting the blame for not doing enough.

I can see why the Democrats would want to shift blame to the Republicans. They see the president’s approval ratings and they know that he is getting blamed for a wide variety of ills (including Ebola), and they also know that, if he gets the blame, they get the blame.

But this is not the kind of crisis where it makes sense politically to try to play politics with it. Instead of blaming other people, the president needs to implement a plan that will reassure a jittery public and contain the virus once and for all.

Do you have any confidence that Mr. Obama will implement any such plan?

I don’t either.

John Feehery publishes his Feehery Theory blog at

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