- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2014

From golfing to raising piles of cash for the Democratic party, President Obama’s itinerary often remains unchanged even in the face of crisis or tragedy, but the commander in chief took a much different tack this week as fears over Ebola mount.

Mr. Obama canceled four events over the past two days to remain in Washington and oversee his administration’s response to the outbreak. Campaign stops for fellow Democrats in Connecticut, fundraisers in New York and a planned economic speech in Rhode Island all have been scrapped over the past 48 hours, with the White House saying the president believes it was appropriate to remain in the White House and on top of the crisis.

But the administration for years has maintained Mr. Obama can do his job while on the road, and the president frequently goes ahead with events even in the worst of times.

In April, Mr. Obama spoke at a Chicago fundraiser hours after a gunman opened fire at Fort Hood.

In July, he delivered a scheduled speech on infrastructure in Delaware shortly after a Malaysian airliner was shot down over Ukraine, killing more than 290 people.

Over the summer, the president proceeded with party fundraisers in Texas even as the crisis of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border reached its peak. He rejected calls to visit the border while in the state.

Mr. Obama caused perhaps the biggest firestorm in August when he went golfing immediately after a video surfaced showing Islamic State terrorists beheading an American journalist.

Unlike many past instances, specialists say the Ebola outbreak represents a unique challenge for the president, one that calls for him to appear in command at all times. Unlike past events, which either didn’t pose a direct threat to the American people or were single, isolated incidents, the Ebola scare now is shutting down schools in Ohio and Texas and putting Americans everywhere on edge.

“There’s a possible public panic, and people need to be reassured government is on the case,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston who has written on presidential leadership. “This is a time the president cannot appear to be checked out on the policy in question, because he’s going to get hammered with these claims that he’s not on the job, that he’s more focused on politics than he is on people. For him, he had to stay [in Washington] just for political purposes.”

The political attacks over the administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis have begun in earnest. With reports this week that a second health care worker in Texas was infected while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan — the first and only person to die from Ebola in the U.S. — critics of the administration have started to demand a change in strategy.

“The trust and credibility of the administration and government are waning as the American public loses confidence each day with demonstrated failures of the current strategy, but that trust must be restored, but will only be restored with honest and thorough action,” said Rep. Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania Republican, at a House hearing Thursday on the outbreak.

The White House argues that by staying put and calling Cabinet meetings — Mr. Obama called another hastily arranged meeting late Thursday afternoon — the president is showing the American people he is serious about containing Ebola.

“There have been circumstances where there has been pressing governmental business where the president has decided to move forward with his travel,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. “Today the president and his team made the judgment that it was necessary for him to not travel so that he could remain here at the White House and be focused on ensuring that we have the kind of government response to this situation that’s up to the standards that he has set for his administration.”


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