Nicholas II, Czar of Russia
Ronald Klain, Czar of Ebola
Nicholas II was a handsome man. By all accounts he was a loving husband and father. But he was a bad czar. He had neither the strength nor the wisdom to rule a great nation. He listened to people who gave him bad advice while ignoring people who gave him good advice. As a result, he was overthrown, he and his immediate family were murdered, Russia was plunged into chaos and civil war, and for 74 years the communists oppressed his people more than he ever had.
When Dorothy tells the Wizard of Oz that he is a very bad man, he replies, “Oh no, my dear, I’m really a very good man, but I’m a very bad wizard, I must admit.” It’s the same with most wizards and czars – they are just not qualified for the job.
● The Wizard of Oz was a circus performer. He just happened to be blown off course in a balloon and was mistaken for a real wizard. His blundering efforts make amusing reading, but in real life his antics would be a good deal less amusing.
● Nicholas II just happened to be his father’s eldest son. Other members of the Romanov family would have been better czars, and many ordinary Russians would have been much better leaders.
● Ronald “Ron” Klain just happened to have been chief of staff to vice presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, as well as having been a lobbyist. He also was chief counsel for the Senate committee that put Clarence Thomas through hell before Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Other people would have been better qualified to oversee the Ebola crisis – for example, people with any training or experience in health care or emergency management. Nevertheless, Klain was chosen by President Obama because of his “management experience and contacts throughout the government.”
True, Klain had no training or experience whatever in any aspect of health care – specifically, in epidemiology or virology.
True, Klain had no training or experience whatever in emergency management – specifically, in management of epidemics, whether naturally occurring or the result of bioterrorism.
But in President Obama’s eyes, these deficiencies pale into insignificance because Klain is a graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard Law School. In other words, “He’s one of us.” To his fellow members of the Washington “elite,” a Harvard lawyer is the ideal person to manage anything at all, including a health-care emergency.
If the epidemic spreads dangerously, Klain could serve the virus with an injunction. Maybe he could try to embarrass the virus to death, as he almost did to Clarence Thomas. (Remember “Long Dong Silver?” Remember Thomas’s description of the hearing as a “high-tech lynching”?) Or perhaps Klain could arrange a half-billion dollar government loan for the virus, as he did for Solyndra, the solar-energy company. The company died shortly afterward – maybe the virus will do the same.
The late Tom Clancy was a best-selling author of thrillers. He was famed for his attention to technical details, thereby enhancing his readers’ sense of realism. Regrettably, I now see that Clancy was more romanticist than realist. In his novel “Executive Orders,” Clancy describes a bioterrorism attack on the United States using Ebola virus. Yes, Clancy gets many of his facts straight regarding the virus. But he couldn’t have been more wrong about the U.S. government’s response.
● In Clancy’s novel, the president is former Marine Jack Ryan, a man used to making crucial decisions under pressure. In the real world, our president is Barack Obama, a former community organizer who has trouble making any decisions.
● In Clancy’s novel, the president’s wife is a physician who works with a virologist and plays a key role in bringing the danger to her husband’s attention. In the real world, the president’s wife concerns herself with childhood obesity. Her claim to fame is the pitifully meager school lunch.
● In Clancy’s novel, the president appoints as Ebola czar a virologist who recently retired from the Army’s biological warfare unit. In the real world, the president appoints as Ebola czar a Washington insider who couldn’t tell Ebola virus from toenail fungus.
● In Clancy’s novel, the president is a pragmatist who is wise enough to surround himself with top experts in pertinent fields. In the real world, the president is a narcissist who must always be the smartest one in the room, so he surrounds himself with second-raters to make himself look good by comparison.
● In Clancy’s novel, the key objective of the government is to stop the epidemic by closing the borders and isolating infected persons. When people see that this is working, panic subsides. In the real world, the key objective of the government is to prevent panic by sweet-talking the people and by not controlling the borders or taking other decisive action. When people see that this is not working, panic increases.
● In Clancy’s novel, the government’s primary objective is to protect American lives. In the real world, the government’s primary objective is not to be politically incorrect.
● In Clancy’s novel, officials look at airports, border crossings, and infectious-disease wards in hospitals. In the real world, officials look at briefing papers and staff reports.
● In Clancy’s novel, America goes through a terrible crisis but comes out even stronger. In the real world…we’ll see.
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