Why conservatives blame Obama for Ebola

Updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014

Story highlights

LZ Granderson: A lot of President Obama's critics are blaming him for Ebola

LZ: These critics ignore reality and reject facts, and want to bash Obama at every chance

He says Obama directed resources to combat Ebola crisis from the very beginning

LZ: Compared to way Ronald Reagan handled AIDS crisis, Obama deserves praise

Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson is a CNN contributor, a senior writer for ESPN and a lecturer at Northwestern University. He is a former Hechinger Institute fellow and his commentary has been recognized by the Online News Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

CNN —  

If our children’s children should die from Ebola here in the United States, President Obama would be to blame.

That is a sentiment I found in numerous comments on Ebola articles that I came across on the Internet. After a while I stopped reading, convinced that if President Obama found a cure for cancer, these would be the people who would blame him for putting doctors out of work.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

That was before Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican and a member of the Homeland Security Committee rumored to have 2016 aspirations, stepped up on Friday and said, “Unfortunately this is another example where the administration was not as engaged early on as they should have been and now we’re playing catch-up.”

Then Sunday, Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee, said, “People today don’t feel better off than they were five years ago, and obviously whether it’s the GSA, the IRS, Syria, Ebola, the Secret Service, I mean what’s going well in regard to this administration and those senators who have followed this president lockstep?”

That’s when it was clear: A lot of President Obama’s critics are blaming him for Ebola.

I guess if some religious conservatives can blame Hurricane Sandy on gay marriage then certainly there is room to lay blame for the outbreak of Ebola on the steps of the White House. Especially if you’re comfortable with ignoring reality and rejecting facts.

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How can President Obama’s response be characterized as negligent when his administration began directing resources—including more than $21 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development – to areas hit with the virus within days of the first Ebola diagnosis?

That was in March. On April 1, according to the World Health Organization, the spread was “relatively small still.” Since then, the Obama administration has committed an additional $175 million and sent 3,000 troops to West Africa to combat the crisis. This comes on top of the largest international response in the history of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When you look at the timeline, it would appear the Obama administration has been leading the fight against the spread of the disease since last winter.

And yet, what does Rush Limbaugh have to say? “It’s being treated and dealt with in the most irresponsible, incompetent manner I can think of.”

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Which is either a confession that Limbaugh is having trouble thinking or just another example of a Republican mouthpiece refusing to let reality get in the way of a good narrative, especially when we’re so close to the midterm election.

Limbaugh’s proclamation is particularly outrageous considering he lived through the AIDS epidemic in the United States. For those who don’t remember that timeline—which obviously includes Rush–the first cases were discovered in 1981. By February 1984, the CDC stated there were more than 4,100 cases in the United States and nearly 2,000 people had already died.

President Reagan didn’t publicly address the disease until May 1987. By then more than 20,000 Americans had died and the virus had spread to more than 100 countries. I would think in the lexicon of irresponsible and incompetent manners to address a public health crisis, Reagan comes out on top.

The Reagan administration’s response to AIDS was not only painfully slow, then-Press Secretary Larry Speakes even made jokes about people dying.

Compared to the way Reagan handled AIDS, Obama’s response to Ebola should be praised. When he went to the United Nations in September, he told world leaders, “We are not moving fast enough.” This is a month after WHO declared the Ebola outbreak a public health emergency and before the diagnosis of an infected man in Dallas.

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With Democrats in the Senate against the ropes, giddy Republicans hoping for a red November cannot be bothered with facts no matter how egregious their rhetoric to the contrary may be. So, GOP party leaders and promoters go out and proclaim President Obama, the man whose signature piece of legislation is designed to provide preventive care, is doing little to prevent the spread of a deadly disease, and hope voters buy it.

I guess when you have people hating President Obama they’ll believe just about anything bad said about him, even if it’s ridiculous.

Case in point: At a summer fundraiser for former GOP Rep. Allen West of Florida, an attendee said, “I personally believe that Obama is a Muslim … and I believe that he is doing everything in his power to bring this country down.” West seized the opportunity to fan those flames by first insinuating that Obama said as much, followed by, “The President has an Eastern orientation” using his own affinity for SEC football to support his claim against Obama. I felt a little dumber after watching the exchange, and yet no one in the audience seemed to mind.

All of which explains why some Republicans are now out blaming Obama for Ebola. It may not be true, but it’s still great for business.

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