President Barack Obama has agreed that it “may be appropriate” to appoint a single administration adviser to handle the Ebola crisis nearly two weeks after Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), an influential national security hawk, and National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chairman Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) called for him to do so.
“It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person [to deal with Ebola],” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday after a two-hour-long meeting with his advisers, a person he said would “make sure we’re crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s.”
Obama is still resisting banning travel to or from the African nations where Ebola is running rampant but said he does not have a “philosophical objection” to doing so.
“A travel ban is less effective than the measures we are currently implementing,” Obama said.
But that Obama is now admitting his administration’s initial structural response to Ebola was not effective shows how remarkably the shift on the issue has been since two nurses contracted the deadly virus from Liberian man Thomas Eric Duncan. Nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson both got the virus from him after lapses in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standards.
“The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a health crisis of massive proportions,” Wolf and Moran wrote to Obama on Oct. 6. “You have announced a government-wide response to address this crisis and help Africans before it becomes a threat to the United States. This requires a global response and the U.S. needs to provide the necessary leadership to control and eliminate this outbreak. We believe it is imperative that you designate a single, senior advisor who will be responsible for coordinating all U.S. agencies and policies involving the international and domestic response to Ebola.”
They gave Obama an Oct. 17 deadline to put a single person in charge, and it seems as though he’s about to meet their deadline–after originally ignoring it.
Several congressional leaders have demanded CDC director Tom Frieden resign after the Ebola lapses, as well.
“The protection of the American people is the most important role of our government. CDC Director Thomas Frieden has failed to lead and has shown gross incompetence in his actions or lack thereof to prevent the spread of Ebola domestically,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said in a Thursday statement. “We cannot afford such mistakes when American lives are at risk. That is why I am calling for the immediate resignation of Director Frieden. At this critical moment, we need leaders who will act boldly and with foresight to prevent the threat of Ebola from spreading. Americans deserve real leadership and accountability.”
Gosar and Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) joined together as well to call on Congress to return from its campaign recess now to debate what to do about Ebola.
“Congress needs to return to Washington to debate the issue of a travel ban to protect the American people from Ebola,” Fleming said in a statement on Thursday. “I have lost confidence in the Obama Administration and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to adequately protect the American people from exposure to this deadly virus. At today’s Congressional hearing, the CDC’s Dr. Tom Frieden confirmed that 100-150 people arrive daily in the United States from so-called hot zones in West Africa, but he failed to answer why we’re still allowing them to enter our country, and doing so without any kind of quarantine. Dr. Frieden claimed those individuals could be tracked, but that does nothing to stop their exposure to other people. Since President Obama is unwilling to lead on this issue, Congress must. The House and Senate should be called back into session to discuss and debate the protection of the American people through a travel ban. We should also further explore how to best contain and defeat this virus where the outbreak has already occurred, and prevent its spread beyond those borders.”