Highest priority question for President Obama: What the hell is your Ebola czar doing, anyway?
After hesitation, confusion and flubs, Obama on Oct. 17 named Ron Klain to ride herd on the U.S. response to the deadly virus. The White House advertised Klain as the ultimate political and bureaucratic fixer.
All would be better, the administration promised in the throes of criticism that the President’s performance testified to governmental incompetence. Since then, hesitation and confusion still prevail, presaging flubs to come.
The latest milestones in incoherence:
Anonymous White House sources spread word that the administration is none too pleased by the quarantine orders issued by Gov. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Christie.
Then, federal health official Dr. Anthony Fauci says on television that he “would not have recommended” mandatory quarantines for health-care workers returning from West Africa, asserting that science dictated a less restrictive policy.
Then, America, if not the world, waits and waits and waits for the Centers for Disease Control to issue protocols for dealing with Ebola health-care workers and people who travel to the U.S. after contact with someone carrying the disease.
Then, the Army quarantines the commander of U.S. Army Africa and about 10 soldiers who are returning from duty in West Africa — even though they show no symptoms and are extremely unlikely to transmit the virus if they carry it.
Just as Cuomo’s protocol directs, the Army staff will be monitored for 21 days.
Finally, the CDC issues standards for monitoring, but not isolating, people who were exposed to Ebola sufferers and do not show symptoms.
And the White House put out word that, pre-czar, Obama had seethed at his staff’s failure to take command of the Ebola response. What’s beyond seething?
The federal government could barely design a more discombobulated message about how it intends to reduce the risk that the virus will reappear on domestic soil.
While the CDC rolls its eyes at Cuomo and Christie — branding them politically driven alarmists — the military wisely followed Cuomo’s abundance-of-caution route. When consequences can be disastrous even though risks are small, it is better to avoid the possibility of grave harm.
What’s suitable for members of the armed forces — whose service we honor, just as we honor that of health-care volunteers — ought to be suitable for American civilians.
Included among them, of course, would be nurse Kaci Hickox, who was sent home to Maine after testing negative for Ebola. She had accused Christie of violating her rights by placing her in mandatory quarantine at University Hospital in Newark. The governor of far less densely populated Maine is now left to set the rules for protecting his citizens.
And where is the czar as his country calls? He’s behind the scenes in Washington — and behind the curve as well.