If there is a Republican wave in the elections next Tuesday, pundits — with their 20/20 hindsight — may very well claim that the wave fully formed when Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided to go their own way with an Ebola strategy, despite pushback from the White House.
The Obama administration's objections (which have made Cuomo and Christie back down a little) to the governors having a plan to actually do something puts voters' problems with this president in vivid relief. The idea that governors are filling the void in the fight against Ebola and committing their states to some common-sense measures is reassuring to voters. Voters don't trust the president to do the right thing, and they are less likely to vote for those who echo the president's blase response. The Obama administration's public rebuke of Christie and Cuomo only reinforces the belief that the president doesn't get it — on Ebola or other issues.
What is a governor supposed to do? Nothing? Get in line and wait for a meeting with President Obama's new Ebola czar, Ron Klain? There is zero chance that political leaders such as Christie and Cuomo will defer to Klain or even have much interest in meeting with him. But governors have to do something to try to limit their states' vulnerability to the spread of the virus, even if they have to fight the administration to get something done. This puts Democrats on the ballot everywhere on the spot. Do they support the measures the governors want to adopt, or do they defend the non-actions of the president?
On CNN on Monday, lawyers for the nurse who was quarantined in New Jersey were basically arguing that she has a constitutional right to put others at risk. It was almost a parody. And listening to the long-winded response reminded me of how this administration approaches almost everything. Team Obama has been unable to adopt reassuring, easy-to-explain measures to eliminate the risks that are inherent when those who have been working with Ebola patients in West Africa return to the United States. The very suggestion that part of the regimen for working with Ebola patients may include some sort of quarantine as a precautionary measure is being overruled by an indecisive president and meddling lawyers. All this is happening one week before the midterm elections, and Democrats are bound to pay a price.
The U.S. military is requiring some sort of sensible quarantine for soldiers who serve in Ebola hot zones. This further erodes the president's position and makes it even more awkward for Democrats who have to say if they support the White House inaction or the U.S. military's plan.
As many readers know, in politics, a bumper sticker always beats an essay. Well, governors, Republicans everywhere — and now, apparently, the U.S. military — are using a bumper sticker that says "reasonable quarantine" while the president and many Democrats have a convoluted essay that essentially says "do nothing." One week before the elections, if I were a candidate on the ballot, I would take the GOP bumper sticker.
Ed Rogers is a co-host of The Insiders blog, offering commentary from a Republican perspective. He is also chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with Haley Barbour in 1991.