OCTOBER 21, 2014
On Friday, addressing mounting concerns about a medical crisis in the U.S., President Obama named the noted epidemiologist Dr. Ronald Klain as the country’s “Ebola czar.” Dr. Klain….
Oh, sorry, that didn’t happen.
The new Ebola czar is not an expert in infectious diseases, or in public health, or even a doctor. To Washington insiders, Ron Klain, a high-stakes Democratic Party operative, is most famous for his role in Florida legal challenges surrounding the 2000 presidential election. Those with longer memories remember Klain’s work as the Al Gore aide who labored to raise more than $100 million for the Democratic Party in the scandal-plagued 1996 presidential campaign. Klain served as chief of staff for two vice presidents, Gore and Joe Biden. In the latter role, he was instrumental in greasing the wheels for the troubled Solyndra Corp., which later collapsed at a cost to taxpayers of more than $500 million.
Dr. Klain has not exactly rushed to the medical front in the battle against Ebola. Appointed Friday, he’ll start today, or maybe tomorrow, and will skip Friday’s Ebola hearing at the House Oversight Committee. Already news is leaking in the Beltway that the Klain appointment is merely to set the stage for bigger things at the White House—senior counselor to the president, perhaps, or maybe a turn as chief of staff to the big man himself.
So it’s clear that the White House views the Ebola situation as a potential political crisis, not a public health one. Okay, fine, that’s the president’s prerogative. But what’s troubling is Czar Klain’s end run around the Constitution.
The Washington Post reports that Klain is “tasked with coordinating domestic preparedness efforts and the U.S. military operation to help control the virus’s spread in West Africa.” He’ll report to homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco and national security advisor Susan Rice, the Post says. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency is also a player. And the Defense Department has a major role. And because it is Africa, so does the State Department. And so does the Department of Homeland Security. Power in Washington is in direct relation to proximity to the president. So a “czar” operating from the White House exercises powerful influence over these departments, which have a measure of transparency and accountability under the law.
Not the czars. As Judicial Watch has reported, the Obama Administration has named dozens of them across the Executive Branch. Many, like Czar Klain, are unconfirmed by the Senate, largely unaccountable to Congress, and often outside the reach of the Freedom of Information Act. That’s a troubling consolidation of power, and no way to run a Republic.