How are we going to deal with the arrival of Ebola on America’s shores? It’s a subject which is on the lips of every politician and media talking head in the country right now. But for anyone who’s been watching politics in DC for longer than, let’s say… five minutes, we all know what the real question is. It’s not what we should do, but who can we blame?
MSNBC contributors Krystal Ball and Anne Thompson have analyzed the situation and come up with the answer which I’m sure will provide us all with one of those why didn’t I think of that moments. Clearly we need to blame the NRA. Their logic boils down to the fact that what we really need is a medical explainer-in-chief, and the gun rights group is preventing that from happening.
If only there was someone around who could educate the American public about the actual level of risk. Someone who was trusted as a public health expert and whose job it was to help us understand what we really need to worry about and what precautions we should take.
Actually, that is one of the primary responsibilities of the United States surgeon general. There’s just one problem: Thanks to Senate dysfunction and NRA opposition, we don’t have a surgeon general right now. In fact, we haven’t had a surgeon general for more than a year now — even though the president nominated the eminently qualified Dr. Vivek Murthy back in November 2013.
I suppose there is some value to having the Surgeon General on hand to go on television and talk to Americans about Ebola, the mechanisms for transmission, precautions to be taken and related subjects. Of course, anyone from the staff currently in place could be assigned to do the same job. But the idea that only a political appointee at the cabinet level can fill this void is rather laughable.
What this really comes down to is an essentially shameless example of someone trying to use an actual threat to the well being of the country to score political points in an election season. Vivek Murthy is still sitting on the sidelines for a few reasons, but the authors of this piece should remind us that his interest in political pandering over true medical issues is the key roadblock.
Murthy is a vigilant spokesman for the idea that guns are a health issue, and doctors should be asking patients if they have weapons in their homes. (Not to mention potentially collecting that information and passing it along.) This is very much along the same lines as finding out who enjoys hang gliding or lives in tall apartment buildings. The problem with this sort of muddled thinking is that it confuses the topics of disease and injury. We want to reduce the incidence of illness among Americans and education can play in important role in that mission. But injuries are a different category, and gun injuries in particular have nothing to do with communicable health hazards.
Murthy is a willing volunteer in a somewhat obscure column of the army trying to limit the Second Amendment rights of Americans. We don’t need him taking a seat in the Cabinet. And in the meantime, the White House can surely find someone else with a medical degree to talk about Ebola.