Obama Appoints Anti-Ebola Czar, Then Hits Campaign Trail

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama has delegated the critical anti-Ebola mission to a top Democratic operative, Ron Klain, freeing himself to return to the campaign trail.

Shortly after, Obama left the White House to give a campaign-style speech about Wall Street regulation and consumer privacy.

White House officials informally leaked the announcement to media outlets Friday morning, less than 18 hours after Obama told reporters that he was considering whether to appoint an anti-Ebola czar.

“It may make sense for us to have one person,” Obama told reporters in an Oval Office appearance late Thursday.

The appointment follows the release of poll showing the public is losing confidence in Obama’s handling of the Ebola crisis and also wants a travel ban on visitor from disease-infected countries.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Obama canceled campaign events to temporarily take a leading role in the efforts to corral the Ebola outbreak in the United States.

Republicans took credit for Obama’s decision.

“I am encouraged the President is listening to those of us on Capitol Hill who have recognized the mismanagement and called for better coordination and leadership,” said a statement from Rep. Jack Kingston, who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for federal health agencies.

“We need a modern-day George Marshall with a modern-day Marshall Plan and the ability to deliver results,” said Kingston’s statement.

But Obama doesn’t want to admit that Klain’s appointment follows a series of dangerous management errors by his appointees.

“The truth is, is that up until this point, the individuals here have been running point and doing an outstanding job in dealing with what is a very complicated and fluid situation,” he insisted Thursday.

The single chief may make sense, he said, “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.”

Klain is widely regarded as a smart, effective and loyal political aide.

Klain formerly worked as chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, and has handled several difficult jobs for Obama, Gore and President Bill Clinton, Attorney General Janet Reno and Democratic staffers. He also worked for Vice President Joe Biden and was considered as a replacement for Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first chief of staff. He left the White House in January 2011 to work for Steve Case, an Internet billionaire.

Klein is facing a tough task, partly because Obama’s deputies and their management errors have already allowed a Liberian visitor to infect at least two American nurses with Ebola.

Follow Neil on Twitter