|Not Ron Klain|
As I’m sure all three of my faithful readers have noted, I’ve been posting to this blog quite a bit less frequently of late. There is one big reason for this: in the heated weeks leading up to a high-stakes election such as next month’s midterms, the media is so focused on who might win any number of disparate races that they stop talking about any actual issues. All the chatter devolves into an endless cycle of meaningless prognostication and laughably short-sighted attempts to project how next month’s wins and losses will affect our two parties’ hopes in the distant future. Add into the mix the American people’s remarkable inability to decide what constitutes the world’s number one crisis (remember when ISIS was a big deal?) and, honestly, I’m at a loss for words.
So, today I just want to talk about one little thing that’s bothering me. Yesterday, Ron Klain began his tenure as the Obama Administration’s Ebola Czar (because Ebola is now the number one crisis, at least for the next few hours). Mr. Klain is merely the most recent addition to a long and storied tradition of American czars. He follows in the footsteps of missile czars, oil czars, AIDS czars, climate czars, ethics czars, rubber czars, reading czars, and the wonderfully fun-to-say car czars. Oh, and let’s not forget the almighty Asian Carp Czar. Actually, Mr. Klain isn’t even the first Ebola Czar. That distinction goes to Dr. Nicole Lurie, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services. As per The Daily Beast, Klain will be working alongside a great many bureaucrats in addition to Dr. Lurie:
With the spread of the disease in the United States, more leaders have stepped in to join the fight. Among [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director] Dr. Frieden’s counterparts in the relief effort are National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, Director of HHS Preparedness and Response Robin Robinson, and Assistant Commissioner in the Office of Field Operations at Customs and Border Protection John Wagner. That’s not to mention Obama’s Homeland Security adviser, Lisa Monaco, who is coordinating the efforts of all the agencies just listed.
Indeed, if there is anything to take away from all this, it’s that we need another government official getting a piece of the Ebola action. But, honestly, that’s not even what bothers me about this. What bothers me is who Ron Klain is. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, Mr. Klain is a lifelong Democratic political operative whose most recent work was as Vice President Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff. He also served in that same position with Vice President Al Gore and Attorney General Janet Reno. During President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, Klain helped with debate prep. But the one thing I’ve always known him for is his role as the head lawyer with the Gore Recount Committee in 2000, a role which was dramatized by none other than Kevin Spacey in the HBO Film Recount. Needless to say, I was shocked when I saw so many photos of Klain after he was announced as the Ebola Czar and he didn’t fit my mental image of him, which looked something like this:
|Also not Ron Klain|
Ron Klain is nothing more than a Democratic insider. He has no medical experience of any kind. Never before in his life has he dealt with either Ebola or bureaucratic coordination of this scope. So why did President Obama give him this job? Some, including the author of the aforementioned Daily Beast article, contend that this illustrates Obama’s perception of the Ebola issue as a political and governmental problem rather than a medical one. And, to be fair, that might be all it is. The White House spokesman was rather upfront in admitting that what the administration was looking for in this position was “not an Ebola expert.” But here is my take on this rather curious appointment. Politico reported earlier this week that the leading candidate to replace John Podesta as counselor to the President is—yep, you guessed it—Ron Klain. Also noted in that report was that a leading candidate to replace Dennis McDonough, the current White House Chief of Staff, would also be Ron Klain. “Bringing Klain into the West Wing now,” the article states, “would provide a smooth transition to Podesta’s job when he departs — probably early next year, perhaps after the State of the Union address.”
Well, that makes for a tidy little arrangement, doesn’t it? Why bother to find someone who has the proper credentials for a newly-created bureaucratic position when you can just bring in a longtime party operative who you want to re-join your inner circle at some point anyway? Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t think this is that big of a deal. If nothing else, Klain’s selection as Ebola Czar makes it pretty clear that there isn’t much of an Ebola crisis in the United States and that this post has been created mostly to make the needlessly panicked masses feel better. But it also reinforces a belief I’ve always had about the Obama Administration: that they care a lot more about keeping the Democratic machine well-oiled and running than they do about anything else.