President Barack Obama suggested Thursday that he would delegate the nation’s anti-Ebola defenses to a “czar.”
His suggestion follows a series of management failings that have left two Americans nurses infected, and the voting public increasingly distrustful of his actions only three weeks before a critical election.
“It may make sense for us to have one person,” Obama told reporters in an Oval Office appearance late Oct. 16.
“If I appoint somebody, I’ll let you know,” he told the reporters.
But he defended his administration’s decisions over the last few weeks. “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.
He also sought to praise his management of the problem by describing the reorganization as a minor improvement. The single Ebola 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.”
Obama also suggested he would reverse his opposition to travel ban for people living in the Ebola-stricken countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
That shift comes three weeks after the unobstructed arrival of a disease-carrying Liberian man, who passed the disease to at least two American nurses, and forced a huge medical emergency on the nation.
The lack of a travel ban has prompted GOP politicians — and an increasing number of Democratic politicians — to back the public’s call for a travel ban.
A recent poll showed that 67 percent of Americans want a travel ban.
For at least two weeks, top officials have defended the current lack of a travel ban. That strenuous defense is strong evidence that Obama himself has opposed a travel ban.
But his statements shows that he’s preparing to reverse policies by establishing some sort of travel ban and by formally delegating authority to a trusted manager.
“I don’t have a philosophical objection necessarily to a travel ban if that is the thing that is going to keep the American people safe … [but] it is currently the judgment of all those who have been involved that a flat-out travel ban is not the best way to go,” Obama said.
“The problem is, is that in all the discussions I’ve had thus far with experts in the field, experts in infectious disease, is that a travel ban is less effective than the measures that we are currently instituting,” he said.
“I continue to push and ask our experts whether, in fact, we are doing what’s adequate in order to protect the American people,” Obama said.
“If they come back to me and they say that there are some additional things that we need to do, I assure you we will do it,” Obama said.