Ron Klain: America’s Last Straw?

— This article by Jerry Cates, first published on  17 October 2014, was last revised on 26 October 2014. © Govinthenews Vol. 5:10(2).


The world is presently suffering the latest, and apparently most serious Ebola epidemic in recorded history. Ebola, also known as Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (EHF), is thought to be spread to humans via its primary reservoir, certain species of bats. Between 2001 and 2003 tests conducted on a number of megabats in Africa detected the presence of immunoglobulin G (IgG) specific for Ebola virus in Hypsignathus monstrous (the Hammer-Headed Bat), Epomops franqueti (Franquet’s Epauletted Fruit Bat), and Myonycteris torquata (the Little Collared Fruit Bat). None of these showed signs of infection, suggesting they served as reservoirs without contracting the disease. In several other mammals, including humans, the Ebola virus produces a virulent disease that kills 25% to 90% (generally averaging 50%) of those it infects.

Most deaths occur within days of being infected. The bodily fluids of infected individuals, particularly during the latter stages of the disease’s progression, contain large numbers of the virus and are highly contagious. Strict pathogen isolation procedures are necessary to protect others from contracting the disease from contaminated surfaces and from the victims themselves. Medical science has worked hard to develop such procedures, and when they are followed the likelihood the disease will spread drops in dramatic fashion. However, even under the best of circumstances, when the most advanced pathogen isolation procedures are followed to the letter by experienced doctors and nurses, sometimes the virus infects those caregivers via unknown routes. This suggests that we still don’t know all that should be known about how Ebola is transmitted. It poses an unusually high risk to all who live and work in its vicinity, and it deserves the highest degree of respect for the threat it poses.

It defies logic, then, that America’s response to Ebola’s threat has been governed more by irresponsible political concerns than by well-eveloped, medically-based procedures.Many of our politicians — chief among them the president of the United States — have boldly stated that the epidemic is nothing to be worried about. Why? I’ve heard three reasons repeated over and over:

1. It cannot be spread casually, but only by direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, and there must also be a break in the skin.

2. Even then, there is danger only if the infected person is symptomatic, and…

3. Even if infected persons reach our shores, our sophisticated medical infrastructure and well-trained, well-equipped medical personnel will ensure containment of the virus so that nobody else can catch it.

We know now these statements are partly or entirely false. Several doctors — all of whom say they’d done everything right to avoid infection, and have no clue how they fell victim to the virus — caught the disease while caring for Ebola-stricken patients in West Africa. Two courageous nurses, who worked in a Dallas, Texas hospital, caught the Ebola virus while on the job here, in the U.S. They did what nurses are trained to do — they provided medical care using state-of-the-art PPE (personal protection equipment) protocols and equipment, specifically as prescribed by CDC and their hospital’s administration for use with the worst of infectious diseases — to an Ebola-infected man from Liberia.

That man was Thomas Eric Duncan. He had flown to America after caring for an Ebola-infected neighbor in his native land. He evidently lied about his exposure to the virus on the forms he filled out to obtain his airline ticket. Once he was in the U.S., and began to exhibit symptoms of the disease, our sophisticated medical infrastructure missed the warning signs in his now-truthful acknowledgment that he’d recently arrived from Liberia and sent him home with a 103-degree fever. Later, after being diagnosed with Ebola and hospitalized under strict pathogen-containment guidelines, the two nurses mentioned above, who had attended to his medical needs, came down with the disease.

Soon hundreds of American citizens who may have been exposed to Duncan — and to one or the other of the nurses he infected — were hunted down for screening. Amazingly, despite knowing she was at risk, one of the nurses flew to Cleveland, Ohio, to arrange for an impending wedding, and flew back a few days later, potentially exposing more several hundred unsuspecting airline travelers to the Ebola virus on the way there and later, on the way back. Once identified as potentially exposed to the Liberian traveler or the infected nurses, these citizens were ordered to undergo self-monitoring and to place themselves in quarantine, waiting to see if they would become Ebola’s newest victims.

In the aftermath of these tragic events America is in what amounts to a steadily developing panic, which may or may not be overblown. It is comforting to note, for example, that on Monday, 20 October 2014, all 40+ people known to have been in contact with Thomas Eric Duncan prior to his admission to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, had survived the mandated 21-day quarantine period without contracting the disease.

One thing is certain. Thomas Eric Duncan was not the only liar in this chain of missteps

Our president, Barack Obama, downplayed the transmissibility of the disease to the point that his disingenuous claims amounted to lying to the American public; the director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, played up the protective value of protocols in place, and the PPE available for nurses to use, at America’s hospitals in what also amounted to lying; then Dr. Frieden falsely accused the Ebola-infected nurses of violating or breaching those protocols when, from all the evidence available now, they did precisely what they were told to do, and wore precisely what they were provided to wear by those in authority. When the infected nurse who’d flown to Cleveland called CDC to explain she was getting ready to board a flight back to Dallas, but now had a mild fever and wanted to know if it was alright for her to fly, they told her she could, but later that same CDC accused her of taking chances she should have known not to take, and concealed the fact that they had given her permission to take those chances, adding one more lie to the list…

Panic is often more destructive than the calamity to which it reacts. It worsens when the public senses it has been lied to, or that those in top leadership positions don’t know what they are doing or talking about. Strong leaders recognize that, and work hard to ensure that accurate, solid information is provided to the news media and the citizenry. Politicians, it seems, cannot do that. It is axiomatic, at least in today’s America, the home of dysfunctional politics & media coverage gone awry, that politicians must spin the truth. When an American politician tells it like it is the American media eats them alive, so they soon learn to parse their words to avoid getting pilloried in the press. It is what we might even call the politician’s greatest disability, and, truly, it is one that, in today’s political climate, cannot be helped. But politicians can have that disability and work around it, and good, honest politicians (if such animals actually exist) do so. For example, good, honest politicians surround themselves with — and turn the job of communicating technical truths that must be conveyed to the public over to — experts in their respective technical fields. Medical truths should be handled by experts in medicine; truths concerning the transmission of infectious diseases, in particular, should be handled by medical experts specializing in the field of epidemiology, not medical spokespersons skilled more in spinning the truth than in being frank and honest. Those candid, unadorned truths should come from their mouths directly, not regurgitated from the mouths or pens of our politicians.

In short, to properly deal with and combat Ebola in the U.S. and in the world, strong competent leadership — not in the political but in the medical realm — is what is needed most. We need medically trained experts who know the truth and have the guts to state it boldly and succinctly. The very last thing we need, in the wake of this politically-manufactured debacle, is a rank-and-file politician pretending to lead the way to an Ebola-free USA.

Yet, throughout this terrible mess Barack Obama has been America’s loudest spokesman on what Ebola is, how it can and cannot spread, when it is dangerous and when it is not, and whether a ban on travel from West Africa to the United States is or is not a worthwhile means of protecting us from the virus. Everybody knows that Barack Obama, trained as a lawyer and a community organizer, has no formal education or experience in the medical field, yet he speaks confidently — with the air of a genuine expert — about things he knows little or nothing about, as if he knows it all.

Worse, on Friday, 18 October 2014, Barack Obama appointed Ron Klain as America’s “Ebola Czar.” An attorney and longtime political functionary, Klain has lots of political experience as, for example, chief of staff to Al Gore and Vice President Biden. He is also known for his unswerving loyalty to those who appoint him to his political posts. However, like his newest boss, Barack Obama, he has no medical or healthcare experience. Despite that, he now has the job of handling America’s response to the fast-moving Ebola epidemic…

The job of “Ebola Czar” is to help the nation understand what we are facing with the Ebola crisis, and assist in navigating our way to a successful battle against it. Will Klain save the day and bring us out of this crisis unscathed? The political pundits say time will tell. Commentators favorable to the Obama White House have expressed positions of support, backing Klain up and justifying Obama’s decision to pick him for the job, but to this writer the odds are against it. Nobody but rank apologists for the Obama White House view his appointment as a step in the right direction. Like most of what Obama does these days, the predicted calamities that emanate from his executive actions come all too true, all too soon. Maybe, just maybe, this will be the exception, but the history of this Administration suggests otherwise. It more likely foreshadows one more disaster for Obama and for the nation he has sworn to serve and protect.

It is rightfully said that, when finding oneself in an ever-deepening hole, one should stop digging. That logic, however, seems lost on Obama and those who surround him.

The list of serious mistakes and fumbles this administration has made over the nearly six years Obama has been in office grows longer by the day. Eventually it must register on the American people that they — not he, but the citizenry who voted him into office — will be forced to pay the price and shoulder the burden of righting our foundering ship of state. This is not because Obama can’t, but because he won’t do the job he was elected to do. True, many of the promises he made to get to the White House were impossible to fulfill. Again, making promises that cannot be kept appears to be part of the political process in America today, so it is difficult to fault him for doing what his colleagues playing the game of politics typically do, but he still had a real, nuts-and-bolts kind of job to do, one that he swore that he’d do, and one he needs badly to do right now. Good, honest politicians know how to walk that tightrope and avoid falling off the wire, but not Obama. We can forgive him for not keeping his off-the-wall, truly impossible-to-fulfill, promises. But we cannot forgive his refusal to do the real job he is responsible for carrying out as America’s President. It is fine to sweat on the golf course, but what we need is for this president to start doing some serious on-the-job perspiring, expending some serious elbow-grease and doing the mundane, hard work of being President.

Along the way, though, America also needs to wake up from the sound sleep induced by the kind of social engineering that was nurtured by Woodrow Wilson, carried forward by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and fully fleshed out by Lyndon Baines Johnson. We must finally face facts. Big Government is not the answer and never will be. America’s war on poverty — the biggest, most expensive, and least effective project America’s Big Government has ever pursued — is a sham and a failure. Obama’s monumental failings, coming as they have at the tail end of that costly debacle, only makes its utter failure all the more obvious. Of all people, he represents the strongest wake-up call — pointing towards reliance of individual tenacity and away from big government — that we’ve had in all our history. But are we capable of awakening? Are we so drugged, so suckered in, so deluded by empty promises of pie in the sky by and by, that we will not listen to and comprehend, or see even dimly, the naked truth?

The millions of Obama supporters, who with misty eyes honestly believed he would carry through as their Knight in Shining Armor, must come to the realization that he was and is a fake, a purveyor of empty promises and unfulfillable dreams that won’t — that can’t — come true. Then they must awaken and recognize that the American Dream — yes, the one he denigrated as inferior — still works wonders, just as before, for all those who seek it and go to work — yes, the truly superior American Dream, which is superior specifically because it requires work, even hard work, in fact — to make it happen. When that realization hits home they will pick up the reins without being asked, and will vote out of office those who make the liars in high places politically strong, and vote in others, women and men who speak the truth simply and who surround themselves with genuine experts in technology with real answers to America’s questions, politicians who will diminish the capacity of America’s Liars in High Places for destruction.

The only way for America’s disenfranchised people to become enfranchised is to take the bull by the horns and make their dreams happen the old-fashioned way. Yes, the old-fashioned way that, as Edison put it, is partly inspiration but mostly perspiration. Nothing — absolutely nothing — has changed to make any other way work. Nothing will ever change to make any other way work consistently and reliably. The moment America’s poor realize they are their own means out of poverty, the war on poverty will be won. Until that time comes for each individual poor person in America, the war on poverty will — for that individual — be lost.

The November mid-term elections are just around the corner. Will America’s majority do the right thing this time? Or, like happened in 2012, will we take another flying leap into the abyss?


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