The Cable

Obama Tries Tamping Ebola Unrest Week Ahead of Election Day

With the U.S. response to Ebola at home and abroad under attack on the campaign trail, President Barack Obama took his case that his administration is acting decisively and responsibly in addressing the epidemic to the public on Tuesday. Republicans, who could win control of the Senate in seven days, are telling voters that the ...

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Getty Images News

With the U.S. response to Ebola at home and abroad under attack on the campaign trail, President Barack Obama took his case that his administration is acting decisively and responsibly in addressing the epidemic to the public on Tuesday.

Republicans, who could win control of the Senate in seven days, are telling voters that the jumbled federal response is indicative of management problems within the White House. According to Kantar Media’s CMAG, a tracking firm, ads mentioning Ebola ran 734 times between Oct. 21 and 25. During the prior month, only 484 political ads mentioned the deadly virus that has claimed nearly 5,000 lives, almost all in West Africa.

Speaking on the White House lawn, Obama reminded the American public that only two people — Dallas health care workers who treated a Liberian man who later died of the disease — have been infected on U.S. soil. He said that the key to stopping the virus is attacking it in its West African epicenters of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.

"We know that the best way to protect Americans … is to stop it at the source," Obama said. "We are going to have to stay vigilant here at home until we stop the outbreak at its source."

Obama suggested that some lawmakers are playing politics with the issue, telling reporters that his administration’s response is based in "science, not fear."

He also called on other countries to chip in a day after White House spokesman Josh Earnest took shots at Russia and China for not doing enough to stem the outbreak. On Monday, Earnest pointed out that the United States has committed 3,000 soldiers and $750 million to containment efforts in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

"No other nation is doing as much … to contain and eliminate this outbreak," Obama said.

The president also defended the split revealed on Monday between the Army’s quarantine policy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s. The Army is placing all service members deployed to West Africa in quarantine for three weeks upon returning to their home bases. The CDC, meanwhile, is not requiring quarantine for medical workers returning from the region.

"The military is in a different situation," Obama said. "We don’t expect to have similar rules for our military as we do our civilians."

After a doctor who recently returned from West Africa last week tested positive for the virus, states including New York and New Jersey issued strict quarantine requirements that federal health officials argued were unnecessary.

Obama’s speech follows a statement from Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, warning that talks of travel restrictions and quarantines are discouraging medical workers from helping out in source countries.

"Right now, I’m very much worried about where we will find those health care workers," he said. "With the fear factor going out of control in so many places, I hope health care professionals will understand that when they took their oath to become a health care worker it was precisely for moments like this."

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