A technique developed for comedy – by Johnny Carson as “Carnak the Magnificent” – is the best way to make two very serious points about the Ebola scare.

The points are that the Obama administration has done a good job of handling the matter; and because of despicable demagoguery on the part of some politicians, mostly – but not all – Republicans, the reality of the situation in America is much better than the public thinks it is.

Imagine Carnak in his enormous turban holding the envelope to his forehead and divining these answers: Zero, one, two, two again, two one more time, thousands, zero and tens – maybe hundreds – of thousands.

And the questions are:

How many people have contracted Ebola in America and died? (Zero)

 How many people in total have died in America from Ebola caught elsewhere? (One)

 How many people have come to America with Ebola caught elsewhere and recovered? (Two)

 How many people caught Ebola in America from treating an Ebola patient and made a full recovery? (Two)

 How many people who came to America with Ebola a month ago are still living, although not fully recovered as yet? (Two)

 How many people have shared space on subways, restaurants, and homes and elsewhere with people who had Ebola and have not contracted the disease? (Hundreds)

 How many of those people caught Ebola? (Zero)

 How many deaths will occur if America adopts the policy of forbidding anyone to come to our country from any of the places where the infection exists? (Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands)

The last answer is especially important. Not only would such a policy be an outrageously inhumane decision that would increase the number of people who would die from the disease, it’s not even sensible selfishness. A global effort to maximize resources to fight the epidemic is not just morally right. It is the best defense against its spread.

The Obama administration did err in not ordering immediate treatment for Thomas Duncan, the one person who died from Ebola here.

But that was in the earliest stages of an unfamiliar issue. Since then, the result of its policies both here and in Africa have produced much better results than have been predicted by opportunistic politicians seeking to appeal to ignorant fear.

The coincidence of the onset of this crisis and the midterm congressional elections has unfortunately offered a tempting target for demagogues, especially those determined to blame President Obama for all the world’s problems.

While American democracy has often shown a capacity to respond well to crises, in this case we are seeing a depressing spectacle in which unprincipled politicians and a frightened, public are bringing out the worst in each other. Mainers can be proud that Sen. Angus King has been a conspicuous dissenter from this pattern of irresponsibility.

Two last points are necessary. First, I have reluctantly concluded that public support for the policy of leaving the Ebola-stricken countries to fend for themselves would not be as strong if the disease was hitting Ireland, Israel, Italy, Greece, Poland and other European countries.

Telling health workers that if they went to any of these countries to provide medical aid that they would be prevented from returning to the United States would be unthinkable, and there would be few, if any, objections to our sending military personnel to help.

Second, I have one more answer and question to pose. The answer: Zero.

The question is, how many people in Maine, New Jersey or anywhere else will fall ill because public health nurse Kaci Hickox refused to be bullied by Chris Christie and Paul LePage?

Barney Frank is a retired congressman and the author of landmark legislation. He divides his time between Maine and Massachusetts.

Twitter: @BarneyFrank

— Special to the Telegram