On the surface, Republicans have been all over the place regarding the idea of a government official to coordinate handling of Ebola. For example, there’s John McCain. Back in 2009 he attacked Obama over having too many czars:
Obama has more czars than the Romanovs – who ruled Russia for 3 centuries. Romanovs 18, cyberczar makes 20.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) May 30, 2009
“From spending time here in Arizona, my constituents are not comforted,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told State of the Union host Candy Crowley Sunday morning. “There has to be more reassurance given to them. I would say that we don’t know exactly who’s in charge. There has to be some kind of czar.”
So Obama appointed an Ebola czar. Ezra Klein explained why Ron Klain is an excellent choice:
Today, the White House will announce that Klain is being named “Ebola czar.” It’s a good choice because it shows a healthy respect for how hard the bureaucratic job of coordinating the Ebola response really is.
The Ebola response involves various arms of the Department of Health and Human Services (particularly, though not solely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the Pentagon, the State Department, the National Security Council, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, President Obama’s office, private stakeholders, and many, many more.
The “czar” position requires someone who knows how these different agencies and institutions work, who’s got the stature to corral their efforts, who knows who to call when something unusual is needed, who can keep the policy straight…
Actual government experience is badly underrated in Washington. Politicians run for office promising that they know how to run businesses, not Senate offices. “Bureaucrat” is often lobbed as an insult. But in processes like this one, government experience really matters. Nominating Klain suggests the White House is thinking about this correctly: as an effort that requires the coordination of already ample resources, where the danger is that the federal government will be too slow in sharing information across agencies and getting the resources where they need to go.
John McCain’s reaction to the appointment of an Ebola czar was to again attack Obama for doing what he recommended:
“Frankly, I don’t think Mr. Klain fits the bill, as a partisan Democrat, certainly not in any effort to address this issue in a bipartisan fashion,” McCain said Friday evening on Fox News.
“He has no experience or knowledge or background in medicine,” he added.
McCain is hardly the only Republican with irrational attacks. For example, Steven Taylor has looked at even more irrational attacks from Mike Huckabee. The only common thread to Republican response appears to be a knee jerk opposition to whatever Obama does.
The duties of an Ebola czar are exactly the bureaucratic skills which Klain has, not being a medial expert. Of course there is a position in government which should have a background in medicine, and work closely with the Ebola czar. That would be the Surgeon General–a nomination which Republicans have blocked as Obama’s nominee has shown concern for gun violence. Now Democrats are demanding that the Senate vote for approval of the Surgeon General nominee:
More than two dozen House Democrats are calling on the Senate to swiftly approve Vivek Murthy’s nomination to serve as surgeon general to help combat the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the U.S.
Murthy’s nomination got sidelined after Republicans and vulnerable Senate Democrats voiced reservations about the Harvard Medical School physician’s outspoken views on gun violence and public health. But the House Democrats, in a letter set to be released next week, argue that the Obama administration needs a top official in place to help with the Ebola response.
“The American public would benefit from having a Surgeon General to disseminate information that is desperately needed,” the Democrats wrote. “The Surgeon General can also work to amplify the Center for Disease Control’s actions, reassure the American people, and combat misinformation here at home.”
We have around 30,000 deaths due to guns a year in this country, but Republicans would rather ignore this problem, while playing politics and creating hysteria with a disease which so far has resulted in exactly one death in this country.