On October 17, President Obama named Democratic political operative Ron Klain to be the Ebola Response Coordinator.
WH official says Pres Obama feels current officials working on Ebola have done outstanding work, but have other demands on their time.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) October 17, 2014
Included among those current officials must be the other Ebola Czar, Dr. Nicole Lurie. (See: “President Obama Already Has An Ebola Czar. Where Is She?“)
The second Ebola Czar will:
"... report directly to the president’s homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, and the president’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, as he ensures that efforts to protect the American people by detecting, isolating and treating Ebola patients in this country are properly integrated but don’t distract from the aggressive commitment to stopping Ebola at the source in West Africa,” a White House official wrote in an e-mail.
The first Ebola czar’s job is described on
her web page at the Health and Human Services Department:
Dr. Lurie is the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The mission of her office is to lead the nation in preventing, responding to and recovering from the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters, ranging from hurricanes to bioterrorism.
In addition to having similar job descriptions and supposed responsibilities, they have other similarities as well:
1) Lack of meeting attendance
Dr. Nicole Lurie, despite having spent the last five years as the top federal health official for pandemic outbreaks and billions-dollar budget oversight, has been mysteriously absent from any public meetings and discussion of Ebola in recent weeks. Her name is almost unknown and unmentioned in most media discussions of federal response. She’s also been MIA from various meetings purportedly focused on pandemic response. But the new Ebola Czar has also been absent from such meetings.
On Friday, President Obama held a meeting to discuss Ebola. On Saturday, President Obama returned from a golf outing to host an Ebola meeting. At both meetings, neither the first Ebola Czar nor the second Ebola Czar were there. The second one, Klain, will start work this week. The first Ebola Czar, Lurie, has been absent without explanation from her office.
As Biden's chief of staff, Klain had a key role in implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and signed off on one of its most controversial projects: a $535 million loan guarantee to solar panel maker Solyndra.
Solyndra was a company run by enthusiastic Obama donors who spent $1.8 million lobbying the government. The company received the stimulus loan just before going bankrupt.
In fact, Klain’s major experience in government coordination is in handing out loans such as these. The White House said “What we were looking for was not an Ebola expert” and that handing out stimulus money was good experience for the new Ebola Czar position. Turns out this is also a major role for the first Ebola coordinator and it’s resulted in similar bad decisions. Lurie was involved in funneling money to major Obama donors before their company also went bankrupt. You can read about it in the Los Angeles Times’ story “Cost, need questioned in $433-million smallpox drug deal: A company controlled by a longtime political donor gets a no-bid contract to supply an experimental remedy for a threat that may not exist.” The company that was passed over in order to fund the now-bankrupt company was developing a smallpox treatment that has shown some promise with, of all things, Ebola.
3) Lack of accountability
On Thursday night, President Obama said he was thinking about appointing an Ebola czar because, he said, “It may make sense for us to have one person, in part just so that after this initial surge of activity, we can have a more regular process, just to make sure that we’re crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s going forward.”
Of course, we already had an Ebola czar. That she and her office existed, much less had been MIA in recent months and had been embroiled in a huge cronyism scandal was barely news. It may have not been in any major news outlet at all in recent weeks. Nobody asked about the results we should have had for the billions upon billions of dollars she oversaw. They just suggested creating a new Ebola czar.
Presumably this new czar, with an expertise in handing out government contracts, will likewise be able to operate with little to no oversight and with no questions from the press.
Klain is in some ways more worrisome than Lurie. He has no public health experience. Not only does Vox.com love him — a near kiss of death — but Klain loves Vox! I can think of few things more discrediting. But mostly Klain just seems like he’ll be a more effective distributor of taxpayer funds via government contracts to businesses that happen to be closely tied to Obama donors.
Meet the new boss, slightly scarier than the old boss.