At the top of today's Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski mentioned that no one from any of the several Obama-administration agencies dealing with Ebola was willing to come on to defend the government's bungled handling of the crisis.
Not to worry: the show two found super-staunch Obama admin defenders in Dr. Emily Senay, consulting doc for PBS and CBS, and Todd Frankel of the Washington Post. When Nicolle Wallace pointed out that the Obama admin had no excuse for not foreseeing the scenario that has played out given that it was the precise plot of "Outbreak" 20 years ago, Senay snapped at Wallace that if she was interested in Hollywood "hysteria," she should "stick with Netflix." Later, the feckless Frankel's Pollyanish argument against closing the borders was so absurd that it prompted Mika to wryly observe "that sounds like luck to me."
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Joe has been at the forefront of this argument [in favor of closing the border] and of course people have been, oh, you can't do that. Clearly, if Thomas Eric Duncan did not come here, we would not have this problem here, correct?
NICOLLE WALLACE: Of course. And you actually have political leaders in Washington--John Boehner is now calling to shut down the flights. I think that'll be the next chapter in the debate. But I don't understand how it's possible that no one could have imagined this. I saw the movie "Outbreak" nearly two decades ago and this is exactly how Ebola spread and became a very dramatic national catastrophe. Why weren't there things in place because you can't say we couldn't imagine this--it was in a Hollywood movie.
EMILY SENAY: Is that question to me?
WALLACE: Yes. I mean if Hollywood could have imagined this and played out the scenario why couldn't the medical community have imagined this and made a plan?
SENAY: It's been a while since I watched "Outbreak." But I think it was a disease that was spread through respiratory --
WALLACE: It was about Ebola. It came from -- exactly as it is playing out. It came from the jungle meat, it was consumed and people flew here. And it happened exactly as it's playing out in real life. Why couldn't the medical community have had a plan on the shelf for 20 years?
SENAY: Well there is a plan on the shelves. Most of the protocols that already existed if properly implemented would provide all the safety that we need . . . We're not going to have a Hollywood experience here, despite the hysteria surrounding it. That's not going to happen, I'm afraid to say. So you might want to, if that's what you're interested in, stick with Netflix.
WALLACE: No, it's not what I'm interested in. It's just that we can't say we couldn't have imagined this. It has happened, it's been documented --
SENAY: Well they did imagine it --
WALLACE: Well, they weren't prepared for it.
SENAY: Well I'm not so sure that's true.
. . .
BRZEZINSKI: Joining us now, reporter for The Washington Post, Todd Frankel who has been covering the story. Todd, given your extensive analysis of this threat, this virus spreading in Africa and the domestic reaction here as it comes to America, do you think what we're hearing from Mitt Romney, from John Boehner, from our own Joe Scarborough about closing the borders is a bridge too far or is that a missed opportunity?
TODD FRANKEL: Perhaps in hindsight some can see it as a missed opportunity, but I don't think that's the answer. I think we have the capabilities to deal with this and, you know, we should not need to close our borders in order to do that. I think the screening is a good idea to sort of take precautions. But closing the board seems, yeah, a bridge too far.
BRZEZINSKI: Would the screenings have stopped Thomas Eric Duncan from coming here?
FRANKEL: No. But Thomas Eric Duncan also should not have turned into the case it was. There were some missteps by the hospital that hopefully other hospitals won't do.
BRZEZINSKI: But if he never came here, wouldn't we not have this problem?
FRANKEL: That's true, but I don't know how you effectively keep him or other people like him out. I mean, if you're going ban everyone from West Africa from coming back, then you're going to have some other issues. The health care workers that we're sending over there to respond to this epidemic, we have to allow them back in this country. So I think there's ways to control this that perhaps do not result in closing the borders.
STEVE RATTNER: I've heard the argument about the health care workers and not wanting to close the borders because of the health care workers. But why couldn't you simply say health care workers can come back and you have a process, maybe quarantines, certainly detection, but close the borders to any random person who wants to go back and forth to West Africa?
FRANKEL: Perhaps you could. I mean that seems -- it doesn't seem to be a need for that. I mean, there is reassuring news in how Duncan was treated in that yes there's a risk to health care workers in the U.S. Because that's who has gotten sick so far. But originally the concern was that his family was going to come down with it, that school children would come down with it because he was in the community and he was sick. And so far those people have not gotten sick. And actually this weekend they will be out of their 21-day incubation period.
BRZEZINSKI: Hold on, Todd. What's reassuring about that? That sounds like luck.
FRANKEL: No. I mean, we know a bit Ebola is a scary disease and on the face of it. And I think the worry was that he was going to spread it throughout the community. And so far that has not happened. It happened in the hospital, perhaps because of some missteps by the hospital. But he did not infect his fiancee, the family he was staying with, anyone else so far, and at this point it's unlikely they will come down with Ebola.