White House: Ron Klain's Work Handing out Stimulus Money Good Experience for Ebola Czar

By York, Byron | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, October 17, 2014 | Go to article overview

White House: Ron Klain's Work Handing out Stimulus Money Good Experience for Ebola Czar


York, Byron, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


President Obama's choice of veteran Democratic politico Ron Klain to serve as Ebola czar stunned many Republicans. Their first objection is that Klain has no experience in public health or infectious diseases. But in a larger sense, GOP critics see Klain, a former chief of staff for Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, more as a political operative than a potential leader of the fight against Ebola.

What qualifies Klain for the job, the formal title of which is Ebola Response Coordinator? First, the White House makes no claim of any expertise in health matters. Instead, officials point to Klain's impressive Washington resume -- the jobs with Gore and Biden, plus chief of staff for Clinton administration Attorney General Janet Reno and top positions with Senate Democrats.

But those are job titles. What specifically has Klain done in those positions that would prepare him for the Ebola assignment? White House officials cite Klain's work in Biden's office, overseeing the dispensing of billions of federal dollars through the American Recovery Act, better known as the stimulus, as evidence that Klain can handle a problem like Ebola.

"He helped oversee implementation of the Recovery Act, a major interagency and intergovernmental project," wrote White House spokesman Eric Schultz in response to an emailed question. "Under Klain's watch, that team: 1) Met and exceeded the plan for deploying the stimulus on time, in a complex interagency scenario involving almost every agency of the federal government; 2) Operationalized an unprecedented commitment to transparency -- quarterly reports on Recovery.gov, overseen by Independent Recovery Transparency and Accountability Board; and 3) Defied expectations for the very low level of fraud -- widely acclaimed at the time."

Earlier Friday, the White House published a blog post saying Klain has "extensive experience in overseeing complex governmental operations." Still earlier, liberal blogger Ezra Klein, thought to be close to many Obama White House veterans, including Klain, wrote that "Everyone agreed Klain knew how to run an interagency process."

The stimulus, apparently, is Exhibit A, and perhaps also Exhibit B and Exhibit C, for Klain's ability to run an interagency process and therefore his readiness to serve as Ebola czar. …

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