So by now you have all probably heard that MSNBC is blaming our current lack of a Surgeon General on the NRA. Which means we don’t have a reassuring, kindly father-figure appearing on national TV to reassure us, in a kindly, father-figure sort of way, that Ebola isn’t going to kill us all. Which in turn means that Fox News (with the noteworthy exception of Shepard Smith) keeps helpfully informing us that WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!!!!!
So if you die of Ebola-related anxiety, it’s all Ted Nugent’s fault. Or something.
Here’s the reality. First, as Shep Smith informs us, the likelihood of contracting Ebola is extremely slim. Heck, our man on the ground Xela has been happily riding his bike around Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and appears to remain hale and hearty. Second, we do actually have an acting Surgeon General, RADM Boris Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H. Rear Admiral Lushniak has deferred to the CDC with regard to informing the public about Ebola. Indeed, there really isn’t much the Surgeon General could do, as Lawrence Gostin, the director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, told CBS News:
“The U.S. Surgeon General’s authority has been so watered down and neutered by successive White House officials that it is difficult to see how having one now would make a difference. At most he or she would have a bully pulpit but there is no authority currently in the office to coordinate and virtually no resources at the [surgeon general’s] disposal,” Gostin said.
Now, the NRA is being blamed for the lack of a person who probably wouldn’t make that much difference. That’s because the White House’s nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, tweeted this a couple years ago:
Which, of course, sent the NRA into a tizzy when Dr. Murthy was nominated. In turn, several Democratic Senators from red, purple, and maroon states, who happen to be up for re-election this year, got skittish and wouldn’t agree to vote in favor of his confirmation.
This was back in…
…wait for it…
This didn’t just happen last month. The White House has had plenty of time to find a nominee more palatable to nervous Democratic Senators. For whatever reason, that hasn’t happened.
To be sure, the NRA is being its usual obnoxious self this election cycle. The NRA is running an ad in Iowa, Colorado, and Louisiana to which the Washington Post’s fact checker has given four Pinocchios and PolitiFact has rated Pants on Fire. (For those of you who have been following the Royals’ march through the postseason more avidly than the fight for the Senate, those three states happen to have heavily contested Senate races. Go read the nerdwars between FiveThirtyEight and Princeton Election Consortium for awhile. I’ll wait here.) Mark Udall and Mary Landrieu voted for Manchin-Toomey, and Bruce Braley sponsored a universal-background-check bill in the House. Hence the ad.
But does that necessarily mean it’s the NRA’s fault that we don’t have a folksy person on the tee-vee telling us not to fear? Maybe, maybe not.
And in the final analysis, does it really matter?
As I was writing this, an email from the White House, entitled “Ebola: What You Need to Know” just hit my inbox. The email reads:
Hm. Seems the White House, with the help of the CDC, is able to get information out.
Without some folksy dude on the TV. The NRA notwithstanding.
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