Perry whiffs in Obama’s Ebola foot­steps

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY CHARLES HURT

Where is the GOP’s John Wayne when you need him? Not, ap­par­ently, in Texas. When Ebola-in­fected Thomas Dun­can landed in Dal­las, he in­stantly be­came a deadly in­ter­na­tional health threat to U.S. cit­i­zens and Amer­ica’s front­line health work­ers. The Liberian na­tional be­came the face here for a grow­ing pan­demic that has al­ready killed thou­sands of Africans and is dec­i­mat­ing the so­ci­etal fab­ric and gov­ern­men­tal in­sti­tu­tions of three coun­tries in West Africa.

Un­der­stand­ably, the man’s di­ag­no­sis sparked a rash of panic through­out the coun­try about a hor­rific, mys­te­ri­ous and in­cur­able dis­ease that Americans had only heard about from far away lands or in hor­ror films.

That is, un­til Thomas Dun­can ar­rived in Dal­las.

Sud­denly, any­one who had been to the hos­pi­tal that turned Dun­can away be­came wor­ried. Every­body who had flown through Dal­las/Fort Worth Air­port be­came con­cerned. Soon, any­body fly­ing any­where got ner­vous. Dis­trust and fear bred fur­ther dis­trust and fear.

It was one of those mo­ments where true lead­er­ship shines.

Some­one who un­der­stands the fears and dis­trust steps for­ward, an­a­lyzes the prob­lem co­her­ently and reaches swift, sen­si­ble so­lu­tions. That leader makes sure the threat is taken se­ri­ously, all pre­cau­tions are made and the pub­lic is pro­tected.

It was the a mo­ment per­fectly chore­ographed for Texas Gov­er­nor Rick Perry to head for the sirens, grab a bull­horn and take charge.

Mr. Perry could have saun­tered onto the scene in his cow­boy boots and slapped down the so-called Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol as in­co­her­ent, in­com­pe­tent and fail­ing to take the threat se­ri­ously enough. He could have shushed down Pres­i­dent Obama, who is still un­clear about whether you can catch Ebola or not by rid­ing on a pub­lic bus with an in­fected per­son.

Mr. Perry could have hired the best epi­demi­ol­o­gists and vi­rol­o­gists in the world to en­sure that Texas Health Pres­by­te­rian Hos­pi­tal fol­lowed the most strin­gent guide­lines to pro­tect the brave and heroic doc­tors and nurses treat­ing Dun­can.

Mr. Perry could have used the op­por­tu­nity to prove that while mas­sive fed­eral bu­reau­cra­cies are slow, un­wieldy and in­ept, smaller state gov­ern­ments can act swiftly and com­pe­tently and are far more an­swer­able to peo­ple. Mr. Perry could have il­lus­trated the clear point that health­care in the hands of fed­eral bu­reau­crats is a dan­ger­ous thing.

Mr. Perry also could have used his deep knowl­edge and long his­tory wrestling with bor­der con­trol to make abun­dantly clear that deadly pan­demics such as Ebola are one of the most press­ing rea­sons coun­tries have bor­ders.

The na­tions of Africa re­spect their own bor­ders, es­pe­cially when it comes to Ebola. Mex­ico re­spects its own bor­ders. Only the United States un­der cur­rent man­age­ment be­lieves that its own bor­ders are mean­ing­less.

Mr. Perry very well may not have the au­thor­ity to sim­ply stop flights from Ebola coun­tries into his state. But he sure could press the is­sue and force Pres­i­dent Obama’s hand to shut down travel un­til fail-proof pro­ce­dures are in place to en­sure no­body else with Ebola boards a plane for the United States.

Lit­er­ally, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has more strin­gent pro­tec­tions for dogs trav­el­ing into the coun­try than they have for hu­mans. Good luck get­ting a dog re­motely sus­pected of ra­bies or screw­worm past all the vets and quar­an­tines and pa­per­work into the USA. But a hu­man car­ry­ing the Ebola virus from Liberia, come right on in!

It re­ally could have been Rick Perry’s mo­ment. Un­for­tu­nately, he missed it.

First, he failed to take im­me­di­ate charge in his own home state. Then he sided with Pres­i­dent Obama against any kind of travel ban. Then he flew off to Europe.

While the gov­er­nor was in Europe show­ing off his very Euro­pean new spec­ta­cles, Thomas Dun­can died and two nurses in Texas be­came in­fected with Ebola.

At least, how­ever, by the time he re­turned home, he had flip-flopped and now sup­ports a ban on travel from Ebola coun­tries. Per­haps Rick Perry learned a thing or two from those swash-buck­ling, straight-shoot­ing Euro­peans. Some­where, John Wayne is turn­ing over in his grave.

Charles Hurt can be reached at, or on Twit­ter at @charleshurt.

Rick Perry

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