Republicans on Friday slammed President Barack Obama's pick to head the federal government's response to Ebola, charging that Obama chose a political operative instead of someone with expertise in solving a health crisis.
Obama named Ron Klain as his new Ebola "czar," and in doing so picked someone with years of experience working on campaigns for Democrats and lobbying. Klain worked on the campaigns of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, and most recently was Vice President Joe Biden's chief of staff.
President Barack Obama has chosen an Ebola 'czar,' and Republicans are not impressed. Pool/Getty Images
At Friday's White House briefing, spokesman Josh Earnest said Klain makes sense given that his work will be coordinating various parts of the federal government response. But several Republicans said Obama missed a chance to bring someone on board who can offer real assurances that Americans will be safe from the virus.
"One would think, faced with the prospect of an epidemic, the president would task an expert in epidemiology not an expert in political spin," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). "Sound bites are not going to deter a single infection or save a single life. The American people can have zero confidence in Ron Klain's competence to carry out this critical role."
Sessions added that at every turn, Obama has "surrounded himself with loyalists," people who "will not tell the president 'no,' and will not have any problem in feeding bogus political spin to the media."
"We don't need another so-called 'czar'; we need presidential leadership," added Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). "This is a public health crisis, and the answer isn't another White House political operative."
"The answer is a commander in chief who stands up and leads, banning flights from Ebola-afflicted nations and acting decisively to secure our southern border," he said.
Earlier in the day, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) called the pick "incredibly disappointing."
"It would disappoint me to think that this administration would appoint someone who is in the communications arena, and is not someone with experience in emergency response, with experience in public health, that has managed an outbreak or an epidemic or a pandemic or some such situation," she told the Washington Examiner.
Jim Gilmore, the former Republican governor of Virginia and former chair of the National Council on Readiness & Preparedness, released a statement saying Klain is "completely unqualified" to lead the effort.
"The threat of this outbreak is too serious to have such an unserious appointment," he said. "Ron Klain is a lawyer with no experience that qualifies him for this deadly challenge. This appointment is the last straw in an unserious, even reckless, presidential response to this domestic crisis."
Despite these complaints, Republicans will have no change to fight the nomination. "Czar" positions are White House advisers that don't run any single department, but are usually charged with coordinating various parts of the government in pursuit of a specific policy. As a result, people in these spots don't need to be confirmed by the Senate.