If you’ve been watching the story of Ebola in America unfold, with public-health officials’ response bordering on sheer incompetence, you’ve probably been thinking to yourself, “You know what would really make everything better and give the public a dose of confidence? Putting a long-time political operative in charge of the whole thing.” I mean, I know I’ve been thinking just that exact thing right there.
Apparently, that is what President Obama was thinking. He reportedly today will name Ron Klain as his new “Ebola czar.”
Who is Ron Klain? He is an attorney by training who has served as chief of staff for two vice presidents (Al Gore and Joe Biden), a staffer on Capitol Hill and a lobbyist for Fannie Mae. He is, in short, a creature of the public sector.
And what in his public-sector record made the president think he was the right pick to come in and right the ship concerning Ebola? Was it his successful work on the Gore Recount Committee? (Let’s ask President Gore.) The judgment he showed in approving of a presidential visit to Solyndra months before the taxpayer-subsidized company filed for bankruptcy? (Hey, once you start picking winners and losers, you’re gonna win some and lose some.) The great success his recent boss, Vice President Biden, had in his efforts to improve the lot of working families, to keep post-war Iraq on track, and to identify shovel-ready stimulus jobs?
Look, Klain might be a smart and charming guy. And he certainly has experience in working within the federal government’s bureaucratic structure. But the fact that Klain has never managed anything larger than the staff of an elected official leaves one wondering whether Obama selected him for such a prominent, immediate, large-scale job because it is hard for this president to understand that public-sector life isn’t everything. When you view everything first as a problem of government and/or politics, you’re bound to reach first for a solution of government and/or politics. And that looks to be what Klain is.
As moves to bolster public confidence go, this isn’t a very good one.