“We can make government again responsive to people not only by cutting its size and scope and thereby ensuring that its legitimate functions are performed efficiently and justly.” —President Ronald Reagan, Conservative Political Action Conference, March 20, 1981
A more perfect description of what’s wrong with the Obama White House’s handling of the Ebola crisis could not be had. But first?
Two days after the death of Ronald Reagan in 2004, left-wing AIDS activist Larry Kramer wrote this charming missive in the Advocate. The title? “Adolph Reagan.” Wrote Kramer, in part:
Our murderer is dead. The man who murdered more gay people than anyone in the entire history of the world, is dead. More people than Hitler even.…
Year after year of his hateful and endless reign we knew we were not a part of the American People he was President of. He would never talk about us, of course, or do anything for us except murder us. There were no social services for us. There was no research into our health. Even as we were dying like flies. How could he not have seen us dying? The answer is he did see us dying and he chose to do nothing. There was no representation in his government of us. There was never anything for us but his ignoble dismissal of us. All of Washington, indeed the world, knew that Reagan hated us. How could they not? Most of them did, too. And when Daddy doesn’t love you, who is there who will stand up to Daddy? This is a trick that Hitler used and which I believe the young Reagan learned from him. He never had to say much out loud himself about his hatreds; but everyone knew what they were. Gays were as hated under Reagan as Jews were under Hitler. It is a trick that both George Bushes have carbon-copied. We have not been included among their American people either.…
And so, and so on. Kramer was also the author of a play called The Normal Heart, which focused on the rise of AIDS in early 1980s New York City. Inevitably the book begat a movie, in this case on HBO. The film closed with what it called this “historic note”:
President Ronald Reagan mentioned AIDS publicly for the first time Sept. 17, 1985, vowing in a news conference to make AIDS research a “top priority.” Reagan’s proposed budget for 1986 actually called for an 11 percent reduction in AIDS spending. By the end of 1986, there were 24,559 reported deaths.
For those who came in late, this was, of course, so much foaming anti-Reagan leftism. In fact, AIDS was a mystery when it first appeared on the scene in the early eighties. It wasn’t until 1983 that Newsweek first put the subject on a cover, saying “Something unusual and frightening was happening,” and noting there were some 1,300 cases identified in the U.S., with the cause undetermined. Contrary to Kramer’s assertion, as Reagan biographer Stephen F. Hayward noted: “Initially gay rights groups and the gay media denied reports of new sexually transmitted disease (‘Disease Rumors Largely Unfounded,’ read a New York Native headline in 1981) and resisted calls to close the bathhouses in San Francisco that were obvious AIDS hotbeds.”
As Brent Bozell and Tim Graham noted in a 2014 column about the HBO version of The Normal Heart:
The real Reagan record on AIDS is different than the seemingly never-ending mud-slinging. His HHS Secretary called it a “top priority” in 1983, when the disease was so new that few people even understood what was happening. AIDS funding skyrocketed in the 1980s, almost doubling each year beginning in 1983 — when the media started blaring headlines — from $44 million to $103 million, $205 million, $508 million, $922 million, and then $1.6 billion in 1988.
Bozell and Graham also point out that the 1984 Democratic presidential nominee, former vice president Walter Mondale, never even mentioned the subject in his nomination acceptance speech, nor did he discuss the issue in his debates with Reagan. In fact, the two note that a “Nexis search of The Washington Post and The New York Times in 1984 doesn’t locate a Mondale quote on AIDS,” asking the obvious of Mondale’s silence: “Does that mean he’s ‘Adolf,’ too?”
The point here is that for the first time in American history, the AIDS epidemic saw the American Left politicize disease. Making the way a president handled a dangerous threat to the public health a serious, legitimate up-front-and-in-your-face political issue.
Now along comes President Obama’s struggle with Ebola. With precedent making it all too clear that the subject of a serious health epidemic is now Exhibit A in terms of a president’s managerial effectiveness or ineffectiveness, the wisdom of his policies or the lack there of. A brand new NBC poll illustrates the point exactly, saying: “A majority of Americans support banning all flights to the United States from countries experiencing an Ebola outbreak.”
Unsurprisingly, with the political shoe suddenly now on the other foot, liberals are furious at the notion of blaming Mr. Obama for the spread of the deadly disease. Over at the liberal Talking Points Memo another writer assailed an entire list of Obama’s Ebola critics. The title for this jewel of resentment: “8 Conservative Ebola Freakouts That Blamed Obama.” Hastily a commercial has been made to try and accuse the GOP of cutting funding for the NIH. Which in turn has — shocker! — brought to light what the NIH was really using its money for. Over at Hotair one example after another came forth from the Twitter feed of CounterMoonbat:
And the parade of absolutely wasted money at the NIH goes on…and on and on and on. As Reagan was always pointing out, this is exactly what’s wrong with the liberal view of government — doing everything and thus nothing well. Its priorities hopelessly screwed up, yelling about “budget cuts” while spending millions to study fat lesbians or Seinfeld watchers or golfers imaginations.
Over at CNN, one LZ Granderson waxed indignant at the idea President Obama would be held accountable for Ebola in the same fashion as President Reagan was held responsible for AIDS. Said Granderson: “I guess when you have people hating President Obama they’ll believe just about anything bad said about him, even if it’s ridiculous.”
The point is very simple. As World War I raced to a conclusion in 1918, the United States was hit with what is known to history as The Great Pandemic. The Spanish influenza. It is said to have killed somewhere between 20-40 million people around the world, more than the number that died in World War I. When it spread to America, no one blamed Woodrow Wilson, who at one point was thought to have contracted a mild case of the flu. While his decision to keep sending troops to Europe to fight and end the war drew some flack as it was believed to be spreading the flu across Europe, Wilson himself was not seriously accused of being responsible.
In fact, Americans over the centuries have been subjected to various diseases: yellow fever, cholera, polio, the Asian flu, and the Swine flu among others. The presidents in whose terms of office these health crises arose — presidents with names like Washington, Jackson, Hayes, Wilson, Truman and Eisenhower — did not have to deal with critics who charged them with being responsible for mass death.
This changed with Reagan. Leftist hatred for Reagan — already long in existence before the AIDS epidemic first appeared — deliberately opened the door to the notion that it was perfectly fair to hold a president responsible for his handling of a public health issue.
Now comes Ebola. There President Obama was on television saying the odds of the deadly disease appearing in the U.S. were “extremely low.” Yet Thomas Eric Duncan lied on his health form, walked onto a plane that took him from Liberia to Brussels to Dulles to Dallas, and infected a Dallas nurse. Terms like “breech of protocol” have entered the public discourse, as airports begin to prepare for screening passengers arriving with West African passports.
The ongoing incompetence displayed is now being laid at the Oval Office door. An incompetence that is startlingly vivid in other areas as well, from dealing with ISIS to setting up the Obamacare website to running the Veterans Administration and more.
I can’t wait for the HBO movie.