All-Star Panel: Reaction to administration's response to Ebola

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 15, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The bottom line, in terms of the public, I want people to understand that the dangers of you contracting Ebola, the dangers of a serious outbreak, are extraordinarily low. But we are taking this very seriously at the highest levels of government.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Obama meeting with his cabinet late this afternoon after canceling a political trip to Connecticut and New Jersey. Take a look at the latest Fox News polls on this issue of Ebola. First, "How prepared is the government to deal with this virus?" And there you see "somewhat," or "not very" and "not" 42 percent. And then the question that a lot of people up on Capitol Hill are asking, "Should the U.S. ban flights from countries where Ebola virus has broken out?" And there you see the majority of those polled say these flights should be banned. One of those wasn't polled, but he's weighed in. The speaker of the House, John Boehner, just a few moments ago issued a state "A temporary ban on travel to the United States from countries afflicted with the virus is something that the president should absolutely consider along with any appropriate actions as doubts about the security of our air travel systems grow." And obviously after a second health care workers has tested positive and she got on a flight.

Let's bring in our panel, Ron Fournier, senior political columnist of National Journal, Nina Easton, columnist for Fortune magazine, and Tucker Carlson, host of "Fox & Friends Weekend." Ron, first of all, this worker gets on a flight after working with the Liberian man who died. It is a pretty stunning development.

RON FOURNIER, SENIOR POLITICAL COLUMNIST, NATIONAL JOURNAL: It's chilling, I mean, absolutely astonishing that we let this happen. And it's just -- it goes to the basic competence of the people involved in the health care system and the government. And also, you know, rule number one to crisis management is you overwhelm a problem with attention and money and resources before it becomes a crisis. And once again we are behind the 8-ball here. I know now we'll put in protocols so this doesn't happen again, but the problem is we have already had people who are now exposed to Ebola or are worried they have been exposed to Ebola, and it should never have happened.

BAIER: Yes. Nina?

NINA EASTON, COLUMNIST, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: To his credit, the president today, he is being criticized on Ebola and being behind the 8-ball, that's just going to happen. But to his credit he was out there a couple of weeks ago saying we're going to take the battle, so to speak, to Africa and sending resources there because that's where you have to contain it. And he made that point again today. You've got to contain it there, and otherwise it becomes a global crisis. He was on the phone to world leaders saying you've got to chip in more to contain this crisis.

And, secondly, on this point about -- you're right, chilling, that the virus is actually in the air flying through the United States, he's development this SWAT team system, saying to the CDC you have to, once there is a diagnosed Ebola patient, you have to spend in a SWAT team to make sure that all the protocols are carried through, because when they are it's been contained.

BAIER: It was also at the CDC, and said in the highly unlikely chance that someone came into the U.S. with Ebola the CDC and health systems were prepared, and obviously it's clear that they weren't.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: This is a classic problem of leadership, especially leadership in science. We tend to overstate what we know as fact. We actually don't know with any great precision how Ebola is transmitted. We're not exactly sure how at least one of these people got Ebola. We can say she didn't follow the protocols. Which protocols? Notice they're not very precise about that because we don't know exactly.

So in light of that, in light of the seriousness of this problem, it's inexplicable that the president dismisses almost with a wave of his hand the notion that you would restrict air travel from the places afflicted. Anyone who has ever spent time in West Africa can tell you we're not going to get this epidemic under control overnight, maybe ever. It's too disorganized a place. And the idea that we just don't want to hurt people's feeling so therefore we're not going to restrict travel, it's not a perfect solution, therefore we shouldn't attempt it, that's crazy.

EASTON: Can I make two points on that, though? The health care workers, the nurses who came down with Ebola were dealing with vomit and diarrhea, bodily fluids. This wasn't airborne transmission as you would have on an airplane. So I think the president today was trying to put this in perspective.

CARLSON: Do we know that? I'm not sure that we know that.

EASTON: We have had Ebola around for decades.

BAIER: Let me run a sound bite from Senator Rand Paul today, which kind of deals with this.


SEN. RAND PAUL, R - KY: It was a mistake for the government to say, oh, don't worry, it's like AIDS. AIDS is difficult to catch. It's direct bodily fluid exchange. But if someone's sitting next to you with Ebola and they cough, you can catch it. Even the CDC ultimately miss this. They say direct contact means three feet. If three feet is direct contact, that's not really the meaning of the word that most Americans would understand.


FOURNIER: Without being too clinical and too specific here, bodily fluids can be transmitted on an airplane in many different ways. I think Tucker is exactly right. We can't overstate the potential problems here. We should not understate them, and that's what the administration has done.

I happen to have faith that I'm not going to get Ebola, my family is safe. I have relative faith in the institutions, but even I'm starting to have some doubts. And that's the problem. They just don't look competent enough where we can think, OK, they're going to take care of things for us, which is how we've got to be in this situation.

BAIER: Let me ask you about this. The president cancels this fundraiser to Connecticut. He comes back to White House, holds this cabinet meeting.  Here's what Jennifer Palmieri, then White House communications director, said in July. "It is rarely a good idea to return to the White House just for show, when the situation can be handled responsibly from the road. Abrupt changes to his schedule can have the unintended consequence of unduly alarming the American people and creating a false sense of crisis."  Tucker, what about today, meeting with his cabinet?

CARLSON: Well, I mean, look, let me just -- I think this relates to something that Ron just said. I have faith in the American medical system.  It's obviously the best in the world. I have faith in our government to a large extent. This is too political. Politics has crept in to the response to this disease. It's crept into the conversation over whether to restrict flights. Notice the debate in Congress right now, the idea that somehow it's a civil rights issue or something. This has nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with civil rights, nothing to do with hurting people's feelings, nothing to do with getting votes in November.  It has to do with maintaining an Ebola-free country. And I just worry that they think about politics at least second on the list of concerns, and that's just scary.

FOURNIER: That quote you brought up is a perfect example. Jennifer said that it was ludicrous at the time. She said it so she could maybe get through to the next cycle, and now it's being thrown up in her face. Of course the president did the right thing today by staying here and not going to the fundraiser. He would get the money anyhow, and having his cabinet in. It was ludicrous back then to say we didn't want to cancel our events because we didn't want to create a crisis.


BAIER: The 60 fundraiser or 98 he's had since -- in his second term.

EASTON: And he went after the downed Malaysian airliner. He's gone in the face of ISIS. He's been tone deaf about this.

BAIER: Golfing after the beheading.

FOURNIER: And again and again they say things to justify their actions or inactions to get them through one news cycle and they don't think about the long-term implications.


CARLSON: The president said I hugged and kissed these medical workers. I don't think those are the workers who treated patients in Dallas, by the way. These are workers who treated patients months ago.

BAIER: In Emory.

CARLSON: Right. So I think that's a misleading thing to say. Why pretend we know what we don't know? I don't understand that.

EASTON: Well, there clearly was a serious probably breakdown in protocol in Dallas, a deadly breakdown. However, this whole question of air travel, part of what they're trying to go is take the fight to West Africa, with resources. And if you shut down air travel, you can't do that. The health care --


CARLSON: You could restrict it.

FOURNIER: I'm open minded on this, but nobody's explained to me, and I listened to Dr. Fauci, nobody has explained to me why we can't still get health care over there.

EASTON: You'd have to do it through charter flights.

FOURNIER: Well, we have charter flights. Hopefully to military flights. There's a lot of ways to get aid in there without commercial flights.

CARLSON: It's pressure from Congress. It's pressure for people who are treating this as a civil rights issue, that the number on sin in their view is to hurt the feelings of others. No foreign citizen has a right to come to the United States, period, and we should remind ourselves of that.

BAIER: What else is on the president's plate? We can tell you it's full, and judging by the polls you're weighing as well. That's coming up next.

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