Obama has more czars than the Romanovs – who ruled Russia for 3 centuries. Romanovs 18, cyberczar makes 20.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) May 30, 2009
Three points here. One: The left is whining today that Obama tried to appoint an Ebola czar — i.e. the surgeon general — but the Senate blocked his nominee because he was too hard on the NRA. But that’s as goofy in its own way as McCain’s argument. No one thinks the surgeon general, even if confirmed tomorrow, would be the quarterback on containing the Ebola crisis; this is a CDC matter and the CDC has taken charge. (Michael Leavitt, the head of HHS under Bush, told WaPo as much last week.) The surgeon general might end up as a White House mouthpiece in press conferences about Ebola news but the CDC would call the shots. And the left understands this, of course; they’ve seized on this talking point simply because it lets them argue that the NRA kinda sorta caused Ebola if you really think about it.
Two: Unless I’ve been reading the wrong news coverage, the thrust of this weekend’s stories about the new infection in Texas isn’t that there’s not enough bureaucracy on top of the U.S. health-care system, it’s that there’s not enough preparedness at the bottom. The nurse who’s sick with the disease after treating Thomas Duncan allegedly used all of the protective gear prescribed by the CDC; the best the agency can do as I write this to explain why she got infected anyway is to say that she must be guilty of a “breach” in the protocol for using that gear somehow, some way. If that’s true, it means even some medical professionals haven’t been trained properly in the protocol yet. In fact, a union of nurses released a survey of its members today in which 85 percent claimed they’d received no training from their hospital on how to handle Ebola patients. (More than a third said their hospital didn’t have enough protective gear.) How is adding a new layer of bureaucracy above the CDC going to solve the first-responder problem, the most likely relay point between infected patients and the wider public?
Three: Maybe this is just McCain spitballing because he got asked a question he wasn’t prepared for (although how could he have been unprepared for an Ebola question?), but the reply is quintessential Maverick, isn’t it? When in doubt, do something. Syria blowing up because of Sunni/Shiite civil war? Do something: Try to find a few thousand moderates and see if we can ride that pony to regime change in Damascus. Financial industry melting down because the housing bubble burst? Do something: Suspend your presidential campaign and return to Washington to … er, wait around for a Senate vote. Ebola transmission in Texas? Do something: Appoint a new bureaucrat with God-knows-what powers to manage this, whatever that might mean. It won’t save any lives but it does give the impression that the feds are taking this seriously, in case the daily briefings from the CDC and wall-to-wall Ebola coverage on TV news haven’t made that clear already. I don’t get it.