Not to Worry Folks, Ron Klain is in Charge of Ebola Damage Control

Klain is neither a medical doctor nor has he any health care experience. He is a lawyer, lobbyist and political insider who has been a staffer for both Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden. He is a political fixer, who managed to channel a lot of taxpayer funds to Solyndra, Obama’s favorite “alternative energy” firm that went bankrupt.

By Morgan Norval l October 28, 2014

President Obama, Ron Klain and Susan Rice meet the press in the White House on October 22 (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The public outcry over the Obama administration’s handling of Ebola landing in America and infecting health care workers in Dallas, Texas temporarily aroused the President from his habitual “leading from behind” way of doing governing.

While at present there seems to be no widespread Ebola outbreak in the U.S., the Obama administration’s response is an exercise in incompetence and putting politics ahead of protecting the American public from future possible Ebola outbreaks.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) changing stance on Ebola – it can’t happen here; we’re on top of the situation; and, we know what to do attitude – clearly turned south to the point where Obama named a political operative – Ron Klain – as Ebola Czar.

Klain is neither a medical doctor nor has he any health care experience. He is a lawyer, lobbyist and political insider who has been a staffer for both Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden. He is a political fixer, who managed to channel a lot of taxpayer funds to Solyndra, Obama’s favorite “alternative energy” firm that went bankrupt. As a lobbyist, Klain also represented Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association. His job was to convince Congress and regulators that things were fine at the government sponsored enterprise and to assure them any concern over Fannie Mae’s exposure to risks in the sub-prime mortgage market was overblown. We all know how that turned out.

As a left-wing Democrat loyalist, Klain’s job will be to use politically correct rhetoric to “educate” the public and persuade it everything is OK and that the administration is now on top of the issue. But the most common sense approach – a travel ban on people from Ebola hot zones in West Africa is rejected by this administration because of the alleged economic effects a travel ban would have on those countries, while suggesting potential Ebola carriers will just go “underground” and come to the U.S. anyway. And, if all that fails, no doubt, they will claim a travel ban is “racist” as it targets blacks from West African countries.

The winter flu season will soon be upon us with people coughing and sneezing in both public and confined spaces. If more and more Americans come down with Ebola during this flu season, then the odds for panic will increase as Ebola’s symptoms often start out as similar to the flu.

According to the October 16, 2014 New York Post, between 70 and 100 passengers each day enter the U.S. at JFK International Airport in New York City from Ebola centers in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Even though JFK is one of the five U.S. airports where passengers from such countries are to land and be screened for Ebola symptoms, these passengers are mixed with other arriving travelers and have access to public toilet facilities, so infected persons have a readymade environment to spread the deadly virus.

State Department figures indicate we are granting 100-to-150 entry visas each day to the U.S. from Ebola hot zone countries. What percentage of these airline passengers who are infected is unknown. A dose of four ibuprofen pills is often enough to override the airport temperature screening process.

The case of the doctor in New York City recently diagnosed with Ebola is further proof of a travel ban and quarantine requirement. After arriving from Guinea-Bissau, he spent ten days wandering around the city travelling in taxi cabs and the subways, not considering seeking medical help before walking about the city. Adding insult to injury, he wandered in the city for the last two days of his ten day excursions when he was feeling sick. Even by CDC standards, he was a contagious agent and able to spread disease. New York City residents should be very concerned.

While the Obama administration travels the politically correct path, many African countries are taking a more sensible course of action. Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal share borders with at least one of the three Ebola countries and have closed their borders with them. Both South Africa and Zambia have undertaken travel restrictions from Ebola countries. Even Zimbabwe, ruled by the vicious madman Robert Mugabe, has imposed a 21-day watch on travelers from those countries instituting regular checkups and regular visits  by Zimbabwean health officials.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration dithers and appoints a political fixer to handle the situation in the U.S. implementing political correctness instead of common sense. Why is it that Third World African countries get it right and we don’t?

It is interesting to compare the efforts of a private corporation’s work in facing the Ebola threat with our politically correct bureaucratic bungling over Ebola. The Firestone Liberia tire company, now part of Bridgewater, has an 80,000 plus acre rubber plantation in Liberia, a particular Ebola hot zone. Firestone Liberia didn’t wait on the corrupt and inefficient Liberian government to address the threat. They took the initiative themselves by creating Ebola treatment units out of shipping containers to take on the Ebola challenge in their huge facility. It is worth quoting a blurb from the October 13, 2014, Medical Daily web site: “In addition to creating a makeshift Ebola treatment unit, Firestone Liberia’s emergency response has included active investigations, contact tracing, and intervention measures. The company has conducted a mass education program, which involves teachers from the company’s schools going door-to-door to explain the disease not only to its employees but to at least 72,000 people residing within the general community and surrounding areas.” The company, even though in the Ebola hot zone, escaped the widespread outbreaks in the rest of the country.

Firestone Liberia’s efforts succeeded because they didn’t involve working with corrupt and ignorant Liberian officials. Maybe there is a message there for the United States.

The use of Ebola as a bio-terror weapon shouldn’t be overlooked.  In 1992 the Aum Shinrikyo cult, who released the deadly, highly toxic Sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system, tried to obtain cultures of Ebola in Africa to add to their biological weapons arsenal. Islamic terror groups like al-Qaeda are known to have flirted with the idea of using the virus as a biological terror weapon.

In 1996 and again in 2004, an incident involving the Ebola virus at a former Soviet biological weapons lab killed a lab technician. Two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, work at the secret Russian military lab goes on and we don’t know what Vladimir Putin is doing at the facility in the Moscow suburb of Sergiev Posad.

Appointing a political fixer as Ebola czar raises the question of White House priority — covering themselves politically, or taking seriously the Ebola threat to the American people both as an epidemic and possible terror threat?

The Obama administration’s choice of Klain was another political decision and it is bad public health policy.

Morgan Norval is the founder and Executive Director of the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research and a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.