- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Political point man or medical manager? That is the persistent question for Ron Klain, who officially begins his tenure as the nation’s “Ebola response coordinator” on Wednesday. The choice of the deft Mr. Klain — an attorney and former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joseph R. Biden and Al Gore and an associate counsel to former President Bill Clinton — has critics wondering if President Obama “sees Ebola as a political crisis, not a health crisis” in the words of Rep. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican.

It is certainly a strategic crisis, riddled with mixed messages and tardy responses that Mr. Klain must cobble into coherence for the press and an alarmed public. Both have noticed that the newly minted czar will not appear before an upcoming House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform hearing on Ebola chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican. That could change.

Meanwhile, there is also a report that Mr. Klain accepted his position because of a future appointment as a replacement for John Podesta, counselor to President Obama.

“The president has been talking to Ron about different roles for a long time, and he wouldn’t accept the Ebola job unless there was a promise of something bigger,” an unnamed but longtime Klain colleague told Politico.

Headlines vary. Mr. Klain is described as “a long-time lobbyist and Democratic operative” (The Federalist), a “consummate Washington insider” (The Wall Street Journal) and “a political fixer for a political problem” (Fox News).

Much coverage remains neutral as journalists wait for Mr. Klain to at least complete his first day on the job. He will have an attentive national audience: Concern for Ebola is now one of the top 10 concerns of Americans, along with the economy, unemployment and “dissatisfaction with government,” according to new Gallup findings.

Some critics are blunt about their feelings.

“It’s obvious that Obama and his so-called experts don’t know Ebola from Shinola. Every day they change their tune,” notes talk radio host Michael Savage.

AND ONE OTHER QUESTION

President Obama’s appointment of Ron Klain to coordinate the government’s attempt to combat Ebola signifies that the government’s main concern is to manage pre-election public perceptions,” states the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, an Arizona-based organization founded in 1943 that advocates on behalf of private medicine and the patient-physician relationship. The group has a question about priorities.

“AAPS would like to know where Klain stands on the relative public-health importance of ‘social norming’ in schools, compared with the 2010 dismantling of the Defense Department’s Aeromedical Isolation and Special Medical Augmentation Response Team (AIT-SMART). This was a rapid response unit with worldwide airlift capability designed to safely evacuate and manage contagious patients under Biosafety Level-4 (BSL-4) conditions,” the association notes.

BUMPER PATROL

“On advice of counsel this bumper sticker contains no message.”

— Bumper sticker spotted in Washington, D.C.

A BITTER PILL FOR PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Seventy percent of Americans now favor legalizing over-the-counter birth control and patches, according to a Reason-Rupe poll — a finding that has the support of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and many Republicans. That includes Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who deems himself an “unapologetic pro-life Republican” who supports the idea that adults should be able to purchase their own birth control.

“Planned Parenthood and some Democrats have pushed back, expressing concerns that legalizing OTC birth control would require women to pay for it rather than have it paid for by their health insurance premiums,” says Emily Ekins, a Reason columnist.

Support for the idea is dominant, however. Hefty majorities of men, women, blacks, whites, Hispanics and assorted income groups agree, the survey found. About two-thirds of both Republican and Democratic respondents support over-the-counter birth control, as do 71 percent of conservatives and 64 percent of liberals.

Does it matter as an issue in either midterm or presidential elections? Quite possibly.

“Republicans should push this issue,” advises Glenn Reynolds, the PJ Media “Instapundit” who notes that some people insist hormonal birth control should be regulated because of potential health hazards.

“Yeah, but doctors pass these out like candy now, with no oversight that you wouldn’t get with a blister pack at Walgreen’s,” Mr. Reynolds points out.

CONSERVATIVES RULE POLITICAL DISCUSSION

Along with revealing that conservatives remain fiercely loyal to Fox News, an expansive analysis of “political divisiveness” released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center finds that conservatives tend to dominate the political landscape.

“The vast majority (81 percent) of those with consistently conservative political values enjoy talking about politics, as do 69 percent of those with consistently liberal political values. That compares with just 44 percent of those with more mixed political views,” the analysis reports.

“This greater enjoyment translates to more frequent discussions. Roughly seven-in-ten consistent conservatives (68 percent) and six-in-ten consistent liberals (57 percent) talk about politics at least a few times a week — about twice that of those with mixed views (31 percent).”

SEEMS LIKE FEMINISM, CIRCA 1963

“Don’t vote for people who proudly tell you they will never compromise; don’t vote for people whose image of the future sounds awfully like the past,” Hillary Rodham Clinton told an audience in Denver on Tuesday while campaigning for Colorado Democrats, including Sen. Mark Udall. She was talking about the Republican Party, of course, her style reminiscent of traditional feminists from the past century.

“This election is important to everyone but especially important to the women of Colorado,” the potential White House hopeful said, alluding to the pro-life beliefs of Cory Gardner, Mr. Udall’s opponent

“That right is under assault today across our country, and it is less secure than it has been at any time during the past 40 years. If women’s rights are denied or rolled back anywhere, it is a threat to everyone’s rights,” Mrs. Clinton concluded.

POLL DU JOUR

72 percent of Americans say children should take their father’s last name at birth; 87 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents and 60 percent of Democrats agree.

57 percent overall say women who marry can use their own last names or their husband’s; 47 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of independents and 65 percent of Democrats agree.

31 percent overall say a woman should take her husband’s name; 47 percent of Republicans, 31 percent of independents and 18 percent of Democrats agree.

6 percent overall say a married woman should use a hyphenated name; 3 percent of Republicans, 5 percent of independents and 9 percent of Democrats agree.

3 percent overall say a child can use a hyphenated name, father’s name first; 4 percent of Republicans, 3 percent of independents and 3 percent of Democrats agree.

3 percent overall say the child can use a hyphenated name, mother’s name first; 3 percent of Republicans, 2 percent of independents and 5 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A YouGov poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 15-19.

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