The deadly virus in the elec­torate

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY WES­LEY PRU­DEN

Some­times in­com­pe­tence gets its due re­ward. No one has to ac­cuse Barack Obama of spread­ing the Ebola virus. The in­com­pe­tence of this ad­min­is­tra­tion is there for ev­ery­one to see, and suf­fer. “Lead­ing from be­hind” works no bet­ter against a deadly virus than it has against evil in the Mid­dle East and greedy am­bi­tion in Ukraine.

Mr. Obama could reprise George W.’s fa­mous trib­ute to his di­rec­tor of Ka­t­rina re­lief a decade ago: “You’re do­ing a heck of a job, Brownie!” Michael D. Brown, his hap­less di­rec­tor of FEMA, is clearly the model for Tom Frieden, the di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion, which con­trols not very much and has pre­vented none of the anger and frus­tra­tion rolling down on the heads of the pres­i­dent and his clumsy helpers.

The front page of the New York Daily News, with the rude econ­omy of the tabloids, says it all, with a full-page head­line in type as big as a box­car to ac­com­pany a pho­to­graph of the pres­i­dent, stricken with the look of a goose that somebody hit on the head with a long-han­dled spoon: “For God’s sake, get a grip.”

The pres­i­dent’s timid and con­fused mis­han­dling of the Ebola cri­sis — and it’s a cri­sis of fear if not yet an au­then­tic cri­sis of pub­lic medicine — is the per­fect storm gath­er­ing to sink his pres­i­dency on the eve of the na­tional midterm elec­tions. Democrats have been hun­ker­ing in an­tic­i­pa­tion of tak­ing losses, but the Ebola scare threat­ens to make po­lit­i­cal catas­tro­phe of mere dis­as­ter.

Rarely if ever has a pres­i­dency dis­solved so dra­mat­i­cally, so quickly, and with his ap­proval hov­er­ing at 40 per­cent and threat­en­ing to sink lower, Mr. Obama has no cap­i­tal left if he knew how to spend it. Some of his most loyal fol­low­ers and re­li­able liege men won’t even ad­mit to hav­ing ever voted for him when every­body knows they did. With ev­ery new Ebola vic­tim, and Tom Frieden agrees with the logic that there will be more, the prospect grows for hys­te­ria in the ab­sence of strong and con­fi­dent lead­er­ship. No one ex­pects Barack Obama to be re­born as Franklin D. Roo­sevelt or Ron­ald Rea­gan, but to be sat­is­fied with Ch­ester Alan Arthur or Jimmy Carter is a lot to ask of a frightened na­tion.

A new poll by The Wash­ing­ton Post/ ABC News, hardly a con­sor­tium of the pres­i­dent’s crit­ics, finds that only 39 per­cent of the pub­lic sees the Democrats as wor­thy and re­li­able, the party’s worst show­ing in 30 years. And the survey was taken be­fore the sec­ond Ebola pa­tient took to her sick bed, a pa­tient who had trav­eled on Fron­tier Air­lines with a fever and with the bless­ings of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion.

In the face of this mis­er­able re­al­ity, not even Harry Reid ex­pects the Democrats to keep their 55 votes in­tact in the Se­nate. The party’s wise men are strug­gling now to be­lieve they might keep 51 seats, or maybe, if “the creek don’t rise, the dog don’t bark, the cat don’t scratch” and fad­ing stars don’t fall out of align­ment, they can keep “a Bi­den majority” of 50 seats. The vice pres­i­dent would cast de­cid­ing votes. That would keep the Demo­cratic leader in his cor­ner of­fice with a li­mou­sine at the curb, but grid­lock would grow even tighter and the pres­i­dent would be on a tight leash. Con­tin­u­ing to treat the Con­sti­tu­tion as some­thing to wrap fish in would be far more dif­fi­cult for him.

The arith­metic of a Repub­li­can takeover of the Se­nate is com­pli­cated. The party needs to pick up a net of six seats, and the es­ti­mates of most of the crys­tal ball say the pick­ups will fall be­tween five and eight. Most pun­dits can iden­tify five — in West Vir­ginia, Mon­tana, South Dakota, Arkansas and Alaska. Louisiana could be the sixth. Repub­li­cans in Iowa and Colorado are run­ning far bet­ter now than thought only a fort­night ago.

All that as­sumes that the rest of the hotly con­tested states — Ken­tucky, North Carolina and New Hamp­shire come quickly to mind — will fall into the al­lot­ted script. But there’s al­ways a sur­prise or two. To keep the Se­nate the Democrats must get all the breaks, which is a lot to ex­pect.

If the past is a guide, a wave will break late next week. If it’s a wave driven by the Ebola virus and fear of the un­known the Grand Old Party could get as many as 10 seats, which would be grand, in­deed. Or not. Wes­ley Pru­den is ed­i­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.