John Barrasso has said some ridiculous things about health care during his time in the U.S. Senate, but his latest criticism of President Barack Obama sets a new low.
Barrasso always boasts of his career as a physician to explain why his expertise is particularly valuable to the Senate, as well as to Wyoming. But his non-stop criticism of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) during the past four years has been extremely partisan, and not based on health or economic facts.
His latest criticism of the president is easily recognizable as the type of crass political maneuver for which Barrasso is never held accountable, no matter what’s at stake. Wyoming’s junior senator leveled his attack on Obama because he is actually cooperating with other nations to curb the Ebola crisis.
Take a moment to contain your rage at the thought of the leader of the free world actually deciding the best way to contain an epidemic in Africa is to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) — the United Nations agency that has been working on major international health issues since 1948.
Yes, the United Nations of “New World Order” fame, the organization that drives conservatives crazy because they want us to believe its main purpose is to eliminate national sovereignty and erode the international power of the United States. And don’t forget the black helicopters.
Barrasso has been enough of a conservative lapdog in the Senate in recent years that it’s not big news he’s complaining about the U.N. again. But with this criticism of Obama for working with the WHO, his pandering to the far-right has veered dangerously close to the looney-tune ravings of Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Louie Gohmert, Tea Party favorites in Texas who never let the truth interfere with what they think is a good partisan sound bite and red meat for their base.
The Republican congressional leadership was quick to shamelessly pounce on the Ebola crisis and blame Obama for allegedly not doing enough to keep the disease from spreading to America. They hope to tie a new albatross around the necks of Democrats in close congressional races who are generally supportive of Obama’s policies.
Barrasso represents the Republicans who are eager to exploit the fears of the American public to capture enough battleground states to take over control of the U.S. Senate. For conservatives, the Ebola epidemic is a gift from the heavens; an October surprise they never expected.
In a conference call with the Iowa Republican Party last Wednesday, Barrasso accused the president of trying to be “politically correct” instead of protecting and defending the nation. Sounds downright treasonous, doesn’t it?
“The president has said, ‘Well, I’ll follow the guidelines of the World Health Organization.’ That’s what he said, and you know the World Health Organization is run by the United Nations, not the United States,” Barrasso said. “It is much more of a political organization. And the president is trying to be politically correct.”
Barrasso sniffed out Obama’s real agenda, in case Iowa Republicans didn’t get the implications of a president working hand-in-hand with the U.N. “The president of the United States [and] members of Congress take an oath of office to protect and defend this country, the Constitution, and yet we don’t see that coming from the president who wants to depend on whatever the World Health Organization has to say,” Barrasso said.
Yes, he’s talking about the evil WHO, which not only eradicated smallpox from the globe, but also has helped reduce child mortality, increased life expectancies worldwide, prevented millions of deaths through the use of vaccines, promoted access to safe water and sanitation and decreased the incidence of HIV/AIDS, among its many accomplishments. Barrasso, our self-proclaimed “Wyoming’s doctor,” wants to know how a U.S. president could cooperate with an outfit that has that kind of shady track record of improving the health of the world’s population.
He can’t be serious. Yet because he’s not up for re-election and he’s from an ultra-red state like Wyoming, the GOP leadership can trot Barrasso out to say any foolish thing he wants to about Obama if it will help link Democratic candidates to his unpopularity right before the Nov. 4 election.
Is the WHO immune from legitimate criticism? No, it has had its share of financial mismanagement problems over the years, which has reduced donations to the agency and limited its effectiveness in some public health campaigns.
But the WHO’s efforts to stop the Ebola epidemic at its source in three West African nations so it doesn’t spread to other countries, including the U.S., has received almost universal approval from doctors on the ground. That doesn’t matter to critics like Barrasso, who keep pushing the knee-jerk reaction to implement travel bans to America from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Health officials say that’s precisely the wrong approach, because it will simply mean more people with Ebola will likely try to leave their homelands to surreptitiously gain entrance to the U.S. through other means, instead of taking commercial flights where they can have their health monitored. It will also restrict much-needed volunteer help to work in the most heavily impacted countries, because these health professionals know they’ll have trouble getting back home no matter what the status of their personal health is.
But that doesn’t sound nearly as forceful as a draconian travel ban, which makes it appear that Republicans want to do something concrete to protect Americans, and Democrats don’t. In reality, they are putting the lives of more people in danger, but that’s a sacrifice the national GOP is apparently quite willing to make if it helps them at the polls.
To throw one more dart at the Ebola crisis to see if it can hit Obama, Barrasso and other conservatives who blocked the president’s nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy as the nation’s surgeon general are demanding he name a “qualified” person in that post to oversee the national response to Ebola.
Murthy was highly qualified, but he had two strikes against him from the outset of his nomination. First, he had supported Obamacare and the president wanted him in the position, so the opposition couldn’t allow it. Second, Murthy dared to call gun violence a national health problem, tweeting that he was “tired of politicians playing politics with guns, putting lives at risk because they’re scared of the NRA.”
It was the truth, of course, but it ticked off the NRA, which kicked and screamed until enough red-state Democrats joined Republicans in also opposing Murthy.
Barrasso and his party have made millions of Americans fearful of an unlikely Ebola outbreak at home, and urged policies that will make us less safe, just so voters will express their displeasure with the Democrats for not doing enough to protect the nation’s health.