Using the unfolding Ebola health crisis as vehicle for their constant attacks on the federal government, Fox News talkers are leading the right-wing media charge (with some assistance from Beltway pundits) in insisting Americans have lost faith in the government's ability to deal the infectious disease, as well as other challenges facing the country.
Pointing to what they claim to be previous bouts of Obama administration clumsiness, such as the terror attack in Benghazi, Secret Service woes, and the so-called IRS scandal, conservative commentators, as part of an increasingly unbalanced response to the Ebola story, claim Americans see the Obama administration as filled with utterly inept players who are unable to provide citizens with basic protections.
“The overriding impression is of disarray, confusion, bad management, failed communication, anomie, disillusion, corruption, and secrecy,” announced Matthew Continetti at Washington Free Beacon.
The Ebola threat “is containable if government is still remotely competent,” claimed the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which signaled its doubts by suggesting “these days government competence is all too often exposed as a fragile veneer.”
And appearing on Fox News yesterday, Donald Trump agreed:
I think very few people trust our government as being competent," Trump told the hosts. “Let's not kid ourselves. I mean with the five billion dollar website for Obamacare, which is still not working frankly and it's a disaster. And so many other things: Benghazi, wars... IRS.”
But a new Pew Research poll undercuts all of that:
The findings, released on Monday, indicate a majority of Americans, including 48 percent of Republicans, have faith that the federal government can deal effectively with the Ebola situation, and that only a small percentage of people are “very worried” about their well being.
So far, the Ebola virus has not led to widespread concern about personal health: Just 11% are very worried that they or someone in their family will be exposed to the virus, while another 21% are somewhat worried.
Public concern over the possibility of contracting the Ebola virus is lower than for other recent public health threats. In August 2009, 45% were worried about the possibility of being exposed to swine flu, and in November 2005, 38% worried about contracting bird flu.
In terms of the government's ability to curb an American outbreak, 57 percent have a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of confidence that it can. That includes 69 percent of Democrats, 57 of Independents and 48 percent of Republicans. That public opinion finding damages the right-wing media talking point that the Obama administration is widely viewed as incompetent and no longer able to deal with challenges.
To make that point, Fox's Gretchen Carlson on Monday tried to tie the Ebola story to Benghazi:
And do we trust that we know all the answers yet about Benghazi? What more and more people seem to be asking about Ebola now isn't that they are necessarily scared about actually getting the disease, but that they're scared the government agencies responsible with helping us if we do get sick might not be up to the task. So if Ebola becomes a bigger issue, the question still remains: will we be safe?
During his October 4 broadcast of Huckabee, former Arkansas Republican governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee also referenced Benghazi when he said “the Ebola scare goes to the heart of a simple question: do you trust the government. Audience, do you trust the government?”
And it's not just openly partisan players making that claim. National Journal's Ron Fournier repeated the same Republican talking point in a recent column:
How much faith can the public summon toward an administration that used incompetence as a defense in scandals involving the IRS, Benghazi, and Obamacare; that lied about its surveillance of Americans; and that just recently acknowledged dangerous misjudgments regarding the Secret Service and ISIS?
It's all part of a media campaign to paint the government as inept and undependable. But step away from the Fox News echo chamber and it's clear, Americans trust the government to deal with the Ebola danger.