Now that the president has been compelled to cancel two fundraising trips to deal with this pesky ebola stuff, he’s starting to take the situation seriously. He has solemnly assured us that the possibility of a “serious outbreak” in the US is “very, very small,” but this comes on the heels of his earlier assurance that any outbreak at all was highly unlikely.
For people as yet unmarked by the president’s previous forays into health care, his confidence may be palliative, but for others – those who buy their own health insurance, and military veterans, for example – a sense of unease may be creeping in. And uncharitable skeptics who question his skills at crisis management during fast-moving events are getting skittish as well, because nothing – even “the economy, stupid” — stimulates panic as fast as an exponentially-rising mortality rate.
But now we are advised that the president is thinking of appointing an “ebola czar.” In the world of titles, this one is probably not the one we would covet. Nor have Obama’s past efforts at czar-making proven particularly useful – the last (maybe only) czar we can recall was the “jobs czar,” and we all know how that turned out. (Hint: more Americans are unemployed today than in any other time in the nation’s history.)
Presumably, this official will be given plenipotentiary powers to direct and coordinate national human and material resources in defense against an epidemic, which seems appropriate under current circumstances. So far, official responses to the ebola threat have been only loosely knit, with various agencies and officials (including some lunatic “judge” in Dallas) all playing different roles with conflicting criteria, unclear objectives and not a little bit of Keystone Kops fumbling about.
But the ebola czar has another function, we suspect – one that is far more important to the president and all the other folks in DC who understand just how annoyed the people are likely to get if there is “a serious outbreak.” In situations like this one, you need more than a capable administrator, a decisive manager, a quick thinker and a firm hand at the wheel.
You need a fall guy.
Look out, “czar.” These guys you will be working for have more than a little of the Bolshevik in them, and you know how they felt about czars.