Paul warned that “political correctness” is getting in the way of the U.S. response. “Because of political correctness, we’re not really making sound, rational, scientific decisions,” he said. “We should not underestimate the transmissibility of this…. This could get beyond our control.”
He went on to question whether the U.S. should be sending 3,000 troops to Ebola hot zones in Africa to build infrastructure to combat the pandemic. “You have to be concerned about 3,000 soldiers getting back on a ship,” he warned. “Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers catch Ebola?”
He further emphasized the transmissibility of the Ebola virus by citing the way Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., may have contracted the virus in Liberia by carrying a pregnant women stricken with Ebola to a taxicab. “There are people getting it who simply helped people get in or out of a taxicab,” he said.
In a separate interview with conservative radio host Glenn Beck, Paul suggested that lack of security at the U.S.-Mexico border could allow Ebola to enter the country from the south. An insecure border is “a danger for a worldwide pandemic should it occur,” he said.
There are any number of issues and questions that arise from Paul’s statements. The most obvious is that Paul seems unaware that the U.S. troops are far more likely to be transported to West Africa and back in relatively small numbers by plane and helicopter than by a ship carrying 3,000 soldiers. In addition, U.S. military officials have made it clear that the troops will have no contact with infected Africans.
And what are Paul’s own solutions for combating pandemics? He previously proposed the elimination of all U.S. foreign aid, which would have closed down the U.S. Agency for International Development, which spends million on the Ebola response in West Africa. His budget proposals also would have sharply reduced funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Paul may want to take a look at news clips from 2005. In March of that year, Frist, a distinguished heart transplant surgeon and GOP presidential hopeful, gave a Senate speech offering his opinion on the case of Terri Schiavo, the young Florida woman who was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state and whose husband wanted to remove her feeding tube. There was national pressure from conservatives urging Congress to stop the Florida courts from allowing her feeding tube to be removed.
In his speech, Frist said he had looked at videotapes of Schiavo. Saying he was speaking “more as a physician than as a United States senator,” he declared “that is not somebody in persistent vegetative state.”
Schiavo died soon after that. An autopsy showed she had suffered severe, irreversible brain damage consistent with persistent vegetative state. Frist drew widespread ridicule. His political star faded, and he did not run for re-election.
Follow Harris Meyer on Twitter: @MHHmeyer