President Obama appointed Ron Klain as the new “Ebola czar” after repeated calls to do so from Republicans who are unhappy with the administration’s response to the disease. Now that the deed is done, however, they are still dissatisfied, calling into question how effective Klain can be without previous public health experience. The fact of the matter is that the GOP are contributing to mass hysteria by disseminating misinformation and causing people to doubt the adequacy of the government’s response. In the end, the Republicans are doing everything they can to score political points ahead of the election, rather than offering any useful help in responding to the situation.
Republicans were vocal in asking for an “Ebola czar” to coordinate the fight against the disease. Unlike their ill-advised calls for a travel ban to and from African countries, the president gave in on this matter. He gave them Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice-Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore. He is a well-known political operator and has a reputation for being good at what he does. Still, he apparently has no experience in public health, which is now the cause of GOP dissatisfaction with his appointment.
Make no mistake, however, in assuming that his previous experience puts him at a disadvantage in this situation. Ron Klain may be the perfect man to handle both the Ebola response and the political furor Republicans are cooking up. As a chief of staff he has plenty of experience with organizing experts and coordinating their actions in the most effective way possible. That is what he is supposed to do as the new czar, not add to the plethora of health professionals already working on the case. Unlike some in the public health field who may or may not have experience in management, Klain has plenty which will be put to good use.
The Republican response to his new job is less about his credentials (which are stellar for a management position) and more about how President Obama has outmaneuvered them. The old advice is “careful what you wish for” and, in this case, getting what they wanted is the worse thing for Republicans. Ron Klain was appointed as “Ebola czar” to manage unhappy Republicans playing politics as much as he was to manage the response to Ebola. The GOP is now upset that their attempt to make Obama look foolish for not having a czar has backfired.
Now Obama has a czar, Republicans have an expert operator to contend with, and the work to contain to and stop Ebola can continue. Everything should be good from here on out. That has not stopped the GOP from spreading misinformation and panic about Ebola. Rand Paul has made his contribution by raising fears about airborne Ebola. The experts, though, have corrected that notion by reiterating that the disease needs direct contact with bodily fluids in order to transmit. Rand Paul has not changed his rhetoric to be in line with the experts. The Georgia governor said that water alone could kill Ebola. Again, experts did damage control by saying that water and some kind of disinfectant like soap or chlorine would kill the virus, not water alone. Donald Trump was very helpful in calling for a travel ban which experts have warned could actually make the situation worse. Instead of reassuring people, Trump proceeded to call Obama “psycho.”
More than anything, Klain’s job as czar will involve damage control when Republicans try to spread panic and fear. That is a job he has plenty of experience in doing. For people who care about facts, this appointment should be a welcome relief. It is obvious, however, that Republicans do not care about facts, otherwise they would be doing more to give accurate ones to the public. But making the Democratic administration look good would be counter to their political goals, which at this time is to run against Obama in every electoral contest they can. What they are really unhappy about with Obama’s new “Ebola czar” is not his qualifications, but that he will make it harder for them to score points in the political game.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury