Mary Matalin Slams Tavis Smiley On Ebola: ‘Our CDC Now Stands For Cannot Do Containment’

On Sunday, October 19, a panel on ABC’s This Week engaged in a highly contentious debate over the Obama administration’s handing of the Ebola crisis. Conservative Mary Matalin mocked PBS host Tavis Smiley for criticizing those who are calling for a travel ban on Ebola stricken nations. 

The former George W. Bush official argued that “the African leaders who have contained to five countries have done it on the basis of containment. Our CDC now stands for cannot do containment. The reason the president gets blamed for everything, Tavis, because he's responsible for it.” 

The back-and-forth began with Smiley whining that “the president's been blamed for everything else so why should he not be blamed for the spread of the Ebola virus in this country.” The PBS host then proceeded to rant against the “darkest side of our media culture” surrounding the bipartisan calls for an Ebola flight ban:

 These are life and death issues literally, and we politicize them. I think it just underscores the worst and the darkest side of our media culture and our body politic number twoI’ve kind of had it, respectfully Bill [Kristol], with these arguments that we ought to quarantine certain countries in Africa. You can quarantine individuals, you can't quarantine countries. And the concern is that it’s always about our best interest. When you quarantine a country in Africa, you basically -- you shut down that country's economy. We just had a summit of all these African leaders hosted by the president. And now we want to shut those economies down. That's not the answer to the problem. 

For her part, Mary Matalin insisted that Obama’s failure to adequately address other crises such as ISIS has caused the public to lose faith the administration’s ability to handle Ebola: 

But you are completely wrong. The African leaders who have contained to five countries have done it on the basis of containment. Our CDC now stands for cannot do containment. The reason the president gets blamed for everything, Tavis, because he's responsible for it. There's no-they didn’t see ISIS…For his response to it. He didn't— ISIS wasn't coming. The V.A. hospital, the NSA, the IRS, so this is just cumulative, George. You know, the weight of all these previous failures is what is animating this response to Ebola. 

The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol continued to pile on against Smiley’s anti-travel ban hysteria: 

Neighboring countries to Liberia and Sierra Leone, poor little countries have said, I'm sorry, you can't travel from Liberia or Sierra Leone to our country unless you have an emergency reason to do so. They have protected their citizens so far from Ebola. That's not fear-mongering. That’s not closing yourself off from the world. That’s protecting your citizens. 

The segment concluded with Matalin and Kristol mocking Smiley’s support of Obama’s Ebola czar Ron Klain: 

KRISTOL: Speaking of experts, are we really comfortable with a lawyer and lobbyist, a political operative being the Ebola czar? Isn't that a little bizarre?

SMILEY: What you want is implementation. And if he -- if Ron can put forth a plan that will address the issues that you and Mary are concerned about, I think you’d be happy in the end. 

MATALIN: He’s not, doesn’t even have direct access to the president. When we had the Homeland Security czar immediately after 9/11, he had the office across from the president's office. He had an immediate access. Klain reports up through the chain. 

See relevant transcript below. 

ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos

October 19, 2014

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Bill Kristol, let me begin with you. Is this the October surprise, how much of a factor? 

BILL KRISTOL: I’m not sure how much of a factor it is. The Republicans are doing pretty well anyway but I talked to one Republican candidate the other night who just said, look, all I say in my speeches is Mr. Duncan from Liberia went to the American embassy there, got a visa, came in, is coming in to the U.S. He died and, of course has already infected two health care workers, was that a sensible thing? Shouldn't we cut off giving visas to people who are tourists basically visiting their girlfriend from Liberia?

It's a pretty easy criticism to make of the Obama administration’s response so far. And in a way President Obama’s legitimized that criticism by saying now he's putting out stories that he's very upset with how his administration responded. There's a new Ebola czar so I think it does hurt Democrats who want to make the case that the Obama administration’s on top have everything. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, and Tavis, we have seen, I think we have a graphic of it right here. Those people turning the Obama 2012 campaign slogan to Ebola, and clearly this is becoming a huge issue right now and you do see the Democrats, they say here the party isolates the party for the election. Democrats walking away from the president on this travel ban issue. 

TAVIS SMILEY: Well, first of all, the president's been blamed for everything else so why should he not be blamed for the spread of the Ebola virus in this country number one. But secondly, this is the worst I think of America when we politicize issues like this. These are life and death issues literally, and we politicize them. I think it just underscores the worst and the darkest side of our media culture and our body politic number two.

But thirdly I’ve kind of had it, respectfully Bill, with these arguments that we ought to quarantine certain countries in Africa. You can quarantine individuals, you can't quarantine countries. And the concern is that it’s always about our best interest. When you quarantine a country in Africa, you basically -- you shut down that country's economy. We just had a summit of all these African leaders hosted by the president. And now we want to shut those economies down. That's not the answer to the problem. 

KRISTOL: Did Mr. Duncan need to have a tourist visa to the U.S.? 

SMILEY: We can discuss Mr. Duncan all day long. The point I'm making is that there’s a lot of talk now about quarantining the country, about not allowing certain persons from certain countries to come in here. And again it’s all about our own parochial interests. It has no concern about the economies of these other countries. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re shake your head, Mary.

MARY MATALIN: Congratulations on your best-seller. But you are completely wrong. The African leaders who have contained to five countries have done it on the basis of containment. Our CDC now stands for cannot do containment. The reason the president gets blamed for everything, Tavis, because he's responsible for it. There's no-they didn’t see ISIS. 

SMILEY: For Ebola? You’re talking about Ebola?

MATALIN: No, for his response to it. He didn't— ISIS wasn't coming. The V.A. hospital, the NSA, the IRS, so this is just cumulative, George. You know, the weight of all these previous failures is what is animating this response to Ebola. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to bring that to Stephanie. It does seem like the White House's intention to try to keep people from overreacting makes it seem like they're playing catch-up.

STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK: But this is an incredibly serious situation in which, you know, people shouldn't be panicking. I think what is really concerning and Tavis brought that up is that what we're really saying now is the use of this in the politics of fear. And we have candidates right now when we're trying to come up with common sense solutions as the administration and experts are trying to do, we've got Republican candidates like Scott Brown and Rand Paul who’s out there and Ron Johnson out there who have really just dug into the politics of fear like let's scare the voters so much they won't have a choice. And, frankly, part of it is because the republicans haven't had much else to say. 

KRISTOL: This is a legitimate policy issue. Should there or should there not be what people call a travel ban or no—

SMILEY: Bill, we’re talking three people. 

KRISTOL: Neighboring countries, oh, really. And your confidence -- neighboring countries to Liberia and Sierra Leone, poor little countries have said, I'm sorry, you can't travel from Liberia or Sierra Leone to our country unless you have an emergency reason to do so. They have protected their citizens so far from Ebola. That's not fear-mongering. That’s not closing yourself off from the world. That’s protecting your citizens. 

SMILEY: Respectfully we are talking three people here, number one. Let's put this in context. The media culture again always blows things up. Three people we're talking about in a country of 300 million people. Number one. Number two, what's more contagious than Ebola right now is the fear that Stephanie spoke of being spread around the country. Number two and number -- go ahead Mary, I’m sorry. 

MATALIN: Okay, Stephanie and Tavis, if you think this is the politics of fear then are the Democrats who are calling for a travel ban particularly the Senate Democrats-- 

SMILEY: They’re wrong. They’re wrong, Mary. 

MATALIN: Who are all calling for—they’re practicing the politics of fear. 

SCHRIOCK: I would think that the conversation about the travel bans is something that needs to be put on the table. They need to come with a comprehensive solution and we have now, you know, someone from the administration pulling everything together. So now let's talk about solutions here. I'm not saying what's right or wrong. Experts will have to decide what's right or wrong. But actually saying if Mitt Romney were president, this wouldn't have happened? 

KRISTOL: Speaking of experts, are we really comfortable with a lawyer and lobbyist, a political operative being the Ebola czar? Isn't that a little bizarre?

SMILEY: What you want is implementation. And if he -- if Ron can put forth a plan that will address the issues that you and Mary are concerned about, I think you’d be happy in the end. 

MATALIN: He’s not, doesn’t even have direct access to the president. When we had the Homeland Security czar immediately after 9/11, he had the office across from the president's office. He had an immediate access. Klain reports up through the chain. 

SMILEY: Three seconds, George. This is not -- context, context, context. This is not as bad as SARS was in 2003 and everybody wants to pile on, Mary, like you did on all the things Obama has done wrong. I've been a critic on certain issues but this is not the president's fault. 

Health Care ABC This Week Bill Kristol George Stephanopoulos Tavis Smiley Mary Matalin

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