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Yuval Levin with suggestions of what we could learn from the Ebola crisis.
In the growing public debate about Ebola, both sides are basically right. The administration is right that we are not witnessing an outbreak of Ebola and that such an outbreak is unlikely in our highly developed public-health system. But the administration’s critics are right that we are witnessing serious failures of that system that should be cause for serious alarm and major improvement.
Ideally, this unusual combination of circumstances — a genuine test of our communicable-disease containment and response system in which the danger to the public at large is actually quite small — would be an opportunity to learn some humbling lessons and make some meaningful changes. We have already learned, for instance, that in the case of a serious public-health crisis, our public officials will have a tendency to express vast overconfidence while relying on plans and procedures that demand an unrealistic level of competence from an enormous number of people in a wide variety of circumstances. The president should not have said that it was unlikely that anyone with Ebola would reach our shores, and the CDC director should not have said that essentially any hospital in America can handle Ebola — and more important, his agency should not have believed that and built its response plan on that premise.
This crucial process of learning lessons has been hampered so far by a peculiar attitude that often emerges in our politics in times of crisis and imbues our debates with the wrong approach to learning from failure. The attitude is premised on the bizarre assumption that large institutions are hyper-competent by default, so that when they fail we should seek for nefarious causes. Not only liberals (who are at least pretty consistent about making this ridiculous mistake) but also some conservatives who should know better respond with a mix of outrage and disgust to failures of government to contend effortlessly with daunting emergencies. …
Kevin Williamson writes on the Ebola administration.
… The Right has had a good deal of fun this week mocking all of the things that our federal health czars have been paying attention to in recent years rather than horrifying threats such as Ebola — e.g., figuring out why lesbians are commonly fat but gay men aren’t, stopping us from bringing home cheese from France but not Ebola from Liberia, etc. But that could very well turn un-funny in short order. It is impossible to tell what will happen with Ebola here or abroad, and the flapping of this viral butterfly’s wings represents one of those high-stakes rolls of history’s dice, the outcome of which cannot be anticipated. Consider such human, economic, and cultural catastrophes as the Great War, HIV, or Communism: None of those was the obvious outcome of a foreseeable chain of events. Neither Karl Marx nor Gavrilo Princip, to say nothing of that unknown chimpanzee hunter, could have imagined where the currents of history in which they were wading would end up taking us.
I am a long-term optimist, but the politics of fear gets a bad rap. Conservatives and progressives both understand in our bones that — for better and for worse — the world is an uncertain and unpredictable place, and full of dangers as well as unforeseen delights. For the Left, mitigating those risks means mostly offering social-welfare guarantees; for the Right, risk-mitigation means preferring to have a military whose capabilities exceed those of the rest of the world combined several times over. Each of those tendencies runs into problems as it interacts with economic and political realities, and the terrifying thing that must be understood is that those Lockheed contracts — along with the nuclear arsenal and the rest of our national security — are in the hands of the same class of people and institutions responsible for our feckless response to Ebola’s arrival on our shores, a fact that would if well appreciated liberate us from any temptation toward ideological complacency.
Noah Rothman at Hot Air posts on the efforts by the left to blame the Ebola crisis on budget cuts.
… Even those ostensibly nonpartisan actors who insist that Republicans stood in the way of a life-saving vaccine are on the receiving end of a rebuke from their more honest colleagues. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the lead researcher on the NIH’s effort to develop an Ebola vaccine, told Time Magazine reporters in early October that there is no vaccine today because, intuitively, “there was no disease around.” For the deliberately obtuse, he called this condition “obvious.” Today, Fauci reiterated his objection to his director’s divisive and baseless claim unequivocally in an interview with Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd.
Only a desperate partisan would embrace the routine and cynical pleas from an agency head for more funding as the gospel truth, but such is the dire state of Democratic political prospects.
Naturally, the legs having been ripped out from under this reckless attack on Republicans’ integrity amid a health emergency, you would expect those Democrats with some self-respect to abandon it, right? Not so fast. …
John Podhoretz says the Times should get paid for running ads for the administration.
These are difficult times, so it makes sense for America’s journalistic institutions to locate new revenue streams.
Just look at the New York Times, always an industry leader: It’s become the official stenographer of the Obama White House.
If I were a stockholder in the New York Times Co., I would certainly hope the paper was properly compensated for the front-page placement of this naked political advertisement.
The only thing missing from it was the opening line that all political commercials are now required to include: “I’m Barack Obama and I approve of this message.” …
The Blog Just One Minute posts on the continuingly shocked and surprised and disappointed President Bystander.
… I have lost track of the number of times we have read that Obama is shocked to learn that big bureaucracies can be clumsy and plagued by poor communication, but I welcome some reminders in the comments; offhand, the Secret Service, the HealthCare.fail rollout and the VA spring to mind, but I also recall he learned about the IRS and Fast and Furious by careful reading of his daily newspapers.
My advice to Team Obama – encourage the Big Guy to take a look around. If he sees a playing field and thousands of screaming fans then he is probably in a luxury skybox somewhere and yes, he is free to cheer and boo like any other spectator. But if he sees a famous desk and slightly curved walls, then he is probably in the Oval Office and might want to remember that he is Chief Executive of the United States and is notionally responsible for the many bureaucracies he purportedly leads.
And I am begging these inside sources offering these seemingly friendly (and seemingly endless) attempts to separate Obama from the debacle du jour – after six years even Obama, a True Believer in Big Government with no actual executive experience, must have noticed that bureaucracies take a bit of coaxing and management. Enough already with the whinging and hand-wringing. …
Glenn Reynolds shares with us Bobby Jindal’s tweets on the four stages of obama crisis management.
Stage 1 of Obama Crisis Management: Don’t worry, I got this.
Stage 2 of Obama Crisis Management: I’m so mad.
Stage 3 of Obama Crisis Management: More money will fix it.
Stage 4 of Obama Crisis Management: Republicans are obstructing.
Breitbart News picks up on Tina Brown throwing the One under the bus.
“They’ve got themselves a little better disciplined. But, you know, the fact is that Obama’s down with everybody, let’s face it, there’s a reason,” Brown said. “And I think that particularly for women. I don’t think it makes them feel safe. I think they’re feeling unsafe. Economically, they’re feeling unsafe. With regard to ISIS, they’re feeling unsafe. They feel unsafe about Ebola. What they’re feeling unsafe about is the government response to different crises. And I think they’re beginning to feel a bit that Obama’s like that guy in the corner office, you know, who’s too cool for school, calls a meeting, says this has to change, doesn’t put anything in place to make sure it does change, then it goes wrong and he’s blaming everybody. So there’s a slight sense of that.”
Cartoonists are especially good today.