Much public skepticism about the government’s response to Ebola stems from the dogmatic pronouncements of Obama administration officials. In a video message early last month on stopping the virus, for example, President Obama asserted that “we know how to do it.” He was wrong.
The world has learned that dealing with Ebola in remote African villages is a very different challenge from confronting an unfamiliar virus in large cities and modern hospitals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite a rocky beginning, now recognizes that containing Ebola presents unexpected challenges of technique and execution. The White House, for its part, apparently thinks it is a messaging problem.
To fix his messaging problem, President Obama has appointed political fixer Ron Klain as its new Ebola response “czar.” Mr. Klain’s most significant contribution to public-health spin control came when he was Vice President Joe Biden ’s chief of staff during one of the worst public-health communications missteps of recent memory. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, Mr. Biden said on NBC’s “Today” show that “I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now.” The White House press office scrambled to walk back Mr. Biden’s words, which threatened to disrupt public transportation and air travel.