With Ebola spreading among healthcare workers in Dallas, and two-thirds of the American public favoring a ban on flights coming from affected areas of West Africa, President Barack Obama is beginning to take the rising Ebola threat seriously.
On Wednesday, Obama revealed that he will not travel to New Jersey and Connecticut to attend prescheduled events for Democrats campaigning to retain their offices ahead of November’s midterm elections. He will instead convene a meeting of Cabinet agencies to coordinate the federal government’s response to Ebola in the United States.
Obama will deliver some remarks following that meeting, as he should. Amid a crisis of confidence in so many traditional institutions of authority in America, the inability of U.S. health agencies to contain the spread of this disease – even allowing an infected health care worker to travel on an aircraft – will only prompt Americans to shed even more faith in their representatives to competently keep the nation secure.
Some analysts are suggesting, however, that the White House’s response to this crisis must account for political concerns. That is myopic. This is not a political crisis.
There are indications that the competence of America’s health security agencies is questionable. At least one NBC reporter suggested that the Centers for Disease Control have not been honest with the American people about the scale of this breach in health security.
“The CDC, the local officials, they knew about this. They had to know about this before that news conference,” NBC reporter Mark Potter said while reporting on the revelation that an infected Texas health care provider was allowed to fly. “Frontier Airlines was notified at 1 a.m., if I read the email correctly, Mountain Time. And that news conference was a lot later than that.”
“If the CDC was telling this to Frontier Airlines, that statement that we might have some more cases really seems quite ironic right now because it may mean that the concern is much greater than we were led to believe,” he added.
That is a serious charge, but it suggests that the agencies coordinating America’s response to the Ebola crisis in America did not want to start an undue panic. Being less than forthright with the public has, however, likely contributed to one. Obama has his work cut out for him, but his first objective should be to be perfectly forthright about the nature of the Ebola crisis both domestically and overseas. If he isn’t, as the CDC apparently wasn’t, it will catch up with him.