According to the polls, Joe Biden doesn’t have a prayer in 2016. And according to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign-policy and national-security issue over the past four decades.”
But two things are also certain: First, Biden is still Barack Obama’s go-to-guy when partisan loyalty is at a premium. Faced with rising concern and criticism over the outbreak of Ebola, Obama tapped Ron Klain, Biden’s former chief of staff, to be America’s Ebola czar. Second, Biden’s friends and family have not hesitated to profit from their ties to the vice president. Biden’s brother, James, and his son, Hunter, have cashed in on the family name, whether it be in Iraq or Ukraine. Biden may have the mien of the crazy uncle in the basement, but he is also a real reminder of what is wrong with politics.
Let’s start with Klain. Like Biden, Klain is a consummate fixer, with Georgetown and Harvard Law School degrees thrown in for good measure. But for his political pedigree, Klain would have no business being Ebola coordinator. Ebola is not just another messaging problem.
Klain was the aide to Al Gore who was memorialized by Kevin Spacey in the HBO movie Recount as pushing for a more aggressive approach to, well, the 2000 Florida recount. Then, after failing in Florida, Klain became a Fannie Mae lobbyist who helped convince Congress and Fannie Mae’s regulators that all was well with the world, even as Fannie Mae was inflating what would prove to be a catastrophic housing bubble.
And yet, Biden and Obama now seek to again unleash Klain on America. To be sure, Klain’s public-health credentials are invisible, a fact that Obama himself has tacitly acknowledged. In announcing Klain’s selection, Obama framed things this way: “Klain comes to the job with extensive experience in overseeing complex governmental operations and has good working relationships with leading members of Congress as well as senior administration officials.” Not one word about Klain, medicine, and immunology.
In that sense, Klain is all too reminiscent of Harriet Miers, George W. Bush’s White House counsel and his personal lawyer. Bush nominated Miers to the Supreme Court but was then compelled to pull her nomination after it became clear that Miers’ loyalty to the president far exceeded her legal chops.
What prevented Miers from joining the court was the fact that she would have to run the gantlet of Senate confirmation, which is something that Klain, the Ebola czar, will not need to do. He is a creature of the White House, cloaked in executive privilege.
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