President Barack Obama is still resisting banning travel to and from West African nations under siege from Ebola, but he has now agreed to do one thing top congressional Republicans have been demanding: appoint an Ebola point person to run the administration’s response.
“President Obama named Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and also to Vice President Al Gore, as the new Ebola czar to oversee the government’s response to the ongoing crisis,” The Washington Post reported Friday. “Klain is currently president of Case Holdings and General Counsel of Revolution, an investment group.”
The Ebola czar will be the face of the Obama administration’s response to this crisis, which has seen lapses from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after Thomas Eric Duncan lied to immigration authorities to get into America–becoming the first Ebola patient diagnosed here.
While treating Duncan using arbitrary “standards” put together by the CDC at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas, two nurses–Amber Vinson and Nina Pham–were infected with the deadly virus.
Weeks ago, two top congressional Republicans–national security hawk Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)–wrote to Obama asking him to appoint such an individual to lead the Ebola response.
“The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a health crisis of massive proportions,” Wolf and Moran wrote to Obama on Oct. 6, adding:
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.
Obama initially ignored their–and others’–pleas. But now that American healthcare professionals have been infected with Ebola here, and now that Duncan died in America because of his infection, causing a widespread panic and a loss of confidence nationwide in the administration’s handling of the crisis–the President initially, on Thursday evening, showed signs that he’d be willing to change course and agree to Republicans’ demands for a point person on Ebola.
“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 meeting with his advisers, a person he said would “make sure we’re crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s.”
However, while Obama has taken a step in the direction toward dealing with this crisis, he has not banned travel–something congressional Republicans are demanding he do.
Obama said he does not have a “philosophical objection” to banning travel but argues that “a travel ban is less effective than the measures we are currently implementing.”
Now that Obama has appointed one person to handle the Ebola crisis, he can no longer hide behind the alphabet soup of Washington bureaucrats who were in charge of the response. Until now, several different government departments and agencies have handled President Obama’s response; the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and more others have all been involved in different manners in responding to the Ebola outbreak worldwide.