Who Says you Need a Doctor to Fight Ebola?

Published October 22, 2014

Perhaps it’s not surprising coming from our first Community Organizer president that the trait the administration claims is most needed in an “Ebola czar” — not that it’s been shown that such a position needs to be created in the first place — is, as Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health put it, “somebody who’s a good organizer.”

It’s been proven that rabble-rousing on the South Side of Chicago does not qualify one to lead anything more significant than a golf foursome (though you have to give Obama credit for spending his time doing what he’s best at, showing a clear understanding of the principle of comparative advantage).

Similarly, one wonders just what the newly named czar, Ron Klain, has “organized” that should give the American people confidence that the most incompetent administration in modern U.S. history is doing what needs to be done to keep citizens safe from a virus that the media is turning into the biggest medical scare since the Spanish Flu.

To wit, Ron Klain — no doubt a very smart man and talented lawyer, including having graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and clerking for a Supreme Court justice — is best known for organizing and advising Democratic politicians from Ed Markey to Bill Clinton to Al Gore to Gen. Wesley Clark to John Kerry, and most recently serving as Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden (proving that intelligence cannot be gained by proximity) before taking a job in the private sector.

Other notes of interest about Mr. Klain include his membership in the Algore Cult of Global Warming and that he was a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, helping a firm that required tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts with “regulatory issues,” according to the Washington Post. He has publicly supported the ill-conceived “Buffett Rule” — calling for higher taxes on the wealthy — although within an analysis that at least recognizes that the “middle class” is as skeptical of Democrats as it is of Republicans.

Clearly the man is indeed a qualified organizer — of the office workings and spin machines of liberals.

But unless you count a couple of health advice-related portfolio companies of Case Holdings, where he serves as president, Mr. Klain’s medical experience seems limited to visits to his own GP.  A quick note to Mr. Case: Klain sure couldn’t sniff out the impending disaster of Solyndra despite being warned of it, so you might want to keep an eye on him if he’s involved with keeping your money safe.

Most of all, the selection of Ron Klain underscores the blindness of President Obama to what the American public really thinks of his Keystone Cops approximation of an executive branch.

Petty (and not so petty) dictators throughout history have valued loyalty over competence or honesty. That characteristic, perhaps more than any other, defines the composition of the Obama cabinet and their underlings such as Lois Lerner and Susan Rice — to whom, strangely, we are told that Ron Klain will report. I expect Mr. Klain to be far more competent than either Lerner or Rice (or Eric Holder or Janet Napolitano or Kathleen Sebelius, just to name a few), but every bit as loyal — which is really the point.

But what purpose does even the existence of this position serve?

Are there not literally dozens of people within the Departments of Health and Human Services or Homeland Security or even Defense or State, within the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases or within management of major teaching hospitals, who could combine managerial skill with medical or epidemiological experience in a way that would be both useful and credible?

(My two cents: I recommend Dr. Alex Rowe of the CDC who has led important work in “improving health care provider performance in low- and middle-income countries” in Africa. Alex (whom I’ve known since high school) is just one example of a person whose experience seems vastly more relevant than Mr. Klain’s medically empty résumé, though I’m far from certain that his wife would appreciate my suggesting him for the job.)

And should not an “Ebola czar” be reporting to the HHS Secretary (and perhaps secondarily to the Secretary of Homeland Security) rather than to counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco and national security adviser Susan Rice, a political hack whose only redeeming quality is that she’s willing to lie to the public (not just about Benghazi) and take the political heat for the boss? If anything, this chain of command is a recipe for complete dysfunction in the American response to Ebola, not just because the public doesn’t trust Susan Rice but also because the actual work needs to be done well outside of her and Ms. Monaco’s nominal areas of expertise and control.

The obvious conclusion is that the purpose of the naming of Ron Klain to the post of Ebola czar is political: to demonstrate that the administration is doing something about an issue over which the media is shamefully whipping the public into a frenzy. It is the health care equivalent — not least in the modest immediate risk to the homeland being amplified by horrific images from far-away places — of Obama’s air campaign against ISIS. (Or, if you work for the administration where the word “Syria” appears to be verboten, ISIL.)

And just as the air campaign is not a serious military strategy, the Ebola czar-naming is not a serious medical strategy. Even more ridiculous, it’s already failing as a political CYA.

Ron Klain did not attend a high-level meeting last Friday to discuss the federal response to Ebola. He also missed a Saturday evening meeting on the same subject. But with President Obama having spent Saturday afternoon golfing (you must see that link), Mr. Klain can be forgiven for believing that all this “Cancel my fundraisers!” and “It’s our top priority!” rhetoric is just for the masses.

So let’s see if we can summarize this: Motivated by a fear of even greater public perception of presidential incompetence and aloofness as we head into an election that should result in the trouncing of congressional Democrats, the president has appointed a politically loyal “organizer” with no medical experience whatsoever to a medically focused position that should not exist.

This in order to make the public feel better about a virus that, although often fatal when contracted, would be unlikely to pose a substantial threat to the U.S. if the government would take the obvious step of stopping residents of a few West African countries from entering the United States (apparently there’s no “red line” there either) until the breakout can be controlled where it currently exists rather than trying to hire airport Ebola screeners for$19/hour.

For any other administration, this confused mess would be considered a blunder. For President Obama, it’s quite literally par for the course.

[Originally published at The American Spectator