On Thursday night's All Things Considered, Texas-based NPR correspondent Wade Goodwyn delved into right-wing panic over Ebola derived from "visceral loathing of President Obama," including claims that some leftists want an Ebola epidemic in America. Goodwyn quoted radio hosts Mike Huckabee, Rush Limbaugh, and Michael Savage -- all featured recently on left-wing blog sites. He concluded by worrying about an effect on the "Democrats' political health."
So it might be a little embarrassing to note that new report from Sarah Ferris at The Hill newspaper that some Democrats are joining the “panic” wing and asking for flight bans, and they’re liberal Democrats on the House side: “The three Democrats — Reps. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) – are among the growing handful in their party who have publicly criticized the Obama administration’s response to Ebola.” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla) also called for travel bans earlier this week.
You can argue this is a story fully loaded with conservative opinion, for a change. But Goodwyn is in prosecution mode here, laying out evidence of conservative lunacy as the NPR crowd sees it.
GOODWYN: Governor Perry, who is widely considered to be contemplating another run at the presidency, is not alone in connecting Ebola to border control. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul are talking about travel bans for everyone from West Africa. Other Republican leaders would like to make those travel bans permanent. Ebola is feeding an already intense anger among conservatives. Former Arkansas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's sentiments are characteristic.
FORMER GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE (from radio show): When the government says it can't keep people out of the U.S., what it means is that it won't keep people out. And why should we be surprised? We've seen our borders routinely ignored. So if someone with Ebola really wants to come to the U.S., just get to Mexico and walk right in.
[See Dave Weigel's article "The Ebola-Obama Panic, from the Fever Swamps to the Bumper Sticker Factory."]
GOODWYN: While border control is an important element to conservatives' perception of the Ebola state of affairs, there are others. One is their long-standing suspicion of government competence. And among Tea Party Republicans, there's the visceral loathing of President Obama. One theory making the rounds is that liberals, which includes the administration, actually want Ebola to spread across America as punishment for the sin of slavery because Liberia, where Thomas Eric Duncan was from, was originally designed to be a country for former American slaves. Here's Rush Limbaugh.
RUSH LIMBAUGH (from radio show): Do not doubt me on this, folks. There are people in this country who believe that this is ultimately traced back to us because of our slavery. We kind of deserve a little bit of this. Make no mistake. That is leftist, political correct thinking. The danger we have now is that we've elected people who think this.
[See Think Progress with the headline "Rush Limbaugh: Obama Wants Americans To Get Ebola As Payback For Slavery."]
GOODWYN: This sense of betrayal is not to be underestimated. Radio host Michael Savage coined the president's latest, unflattering, conservative nickname, President Obola.
MICHAEL SAVAGE (from radio show): There is not a sane reason to bring infected children into a nation other than to infect the nation. There is not a sane reason to take 3,000 or 4,000 troops and send them into a hot Ebola zone without expecting at least one of them to come back with Ebola unless you want to infect the nation with Ebola. Do you understand what I'm saying to you? Do you have any idea what this rises to? It rises to level of treason. It actually exceeds any level of treason I've ever seen.
[See Right Wing Watch, with the headline "Michael Savage: Obama Wants To Bring Ebola Epidemic To America, Should Resign."]
It should be said that it's an incredibly harsh allegation to assert someone wants an Ebola epidemic in the United States. But it's also harsh to assert that Ebola is a fantastic campaign issue for Democrats, as if anti-statist views equal pro-Ebola views. Goodwyn isn't finished diagnosing conservative ills. These examples are just like conservative skepticism of "global warming science," the Quackery Corps:
GOODWYN: High-octane rhetoric is a daily staple of right-wing talk. But according to Rice University political science professor Bob Stein, these conservative rants should not be ignored. For the last month, Stein has been conducting political polling of Texas voters for NPR member station KUHF. Stein says rightly or wrongly, Ebola is frightening voters here.
BOB STEIN: An insidious disease that we can't see or smell but nonetheless still comes across our borders and in Texas, people on the talk radio shows talk about how Ebola evolves or mutates or morphs into an airborne disease.
GOODWYN: Like global warming science, many Republicans are skeptical about the information they're getting from the CDC or Ebola experts anywhere else, for that matter. Stein says the last 10 days and especially since yesterday after Thomas Eric Duncan died, there's been an uptick among voters that the country is in peril. And it's not just Republicans who are being affected. Democratic voters in Texas are also being swayed by the latest reports of American insecurity.
STEIN: As people begin to see that in the White House the president can't be protected, that our borders are being besieged with people who may have diseases like Ebola, even when our citizens try to do good overseas, they get beheaded by Islamic militants.
GOODWYN: The Rice professor says if there are more cases of Ebola, the Democrats' political health may suffer as well. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.