Rand Paul Politicizes Ebola

Ebola has all the ingredients of a scary sci-fi movie.  But public health experts, including Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), point out it isn’t easily transmitted.  The handful of U.S. cases to date were imported from the infection zone by health workers and a man who traveled from Liberia to visit relatives in Texas.  Getting it requires direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected person or animal.  It’s spreading in Africa mainly through unprotected handling of dead bodies incidental to burial customs there.

But none of this stopped Sen. Rand Paul from cranking up his klaxon horn and issuing alarming statements.   He went on Laura Ingraham’s talk show to tell her partisan audience, “”It’s a big mistake to underestimate the potential for problems worldwide,” and “We should not underestimate the transmissibility of this,” and “There are people getting it who simply helped people get in or out of a taxicab.”

Ingraham’s ignorance can be forgiven; she’s only a lawyer.  But Paul is an MD and should know better than to compare the Ebola outbreak to the 14th century Bubonic Plague and the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemics, but that’s exactly what he did on Ingraham’s show.

Of course, he’s also running for president, which explains it; his ulterior political motives are naked and palpable:  “I really think that it is being dominated by political correctness and I think because of political correctness we’re not really making sound, rational, scientific decisions on this.”   He also criticized President Obama for sending 3,000 U.S. troops to Africa to help fight the disease’s spread.  “Where is disease most transmissible? When you are confined on a ship,” he said.  And he wasn’t above grandstanding, either:  “I can’t believe that you don’t think it’s enough of a plan to prevent worldwide pandemic to cough into your elbow. If you just bring your elbow up to your mouth and cough into it, surely that will stop a worldwide pandemic.”

Ingraham’s rightwing listeners lapped it up like a cat with a bowl of milk.

Paul gets a twofer from this:  Attention for himself, and a cheap shot at Obama.  But scaring people and creating panic for political gain is incredibly cynical and reckless; and given he’s a doctor,Roger Rabbit icon it’s also professionally irresponsible.  More to the point, if he’s this dishonest about a subject within his general field of expertise, why should any voter or citizen trust him on foreign policy or the economy?

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