Two Republican lawmakers wrote to President Obama on Monday urging him to name an Ebola czar with a certain stature and public brand. They have a few suggestions, who, oddly enough, all happen to be former Cabinet officials from the George W. Bush administration.
Sen. Jerry Moran (Kan.) and Rep. Frank Wolf (Va.) suggested in a letter that “well-respected former administration officials with a background in public health and international diplomacy” would be the appropriate choice to manage the crisis. Former secretary of state Colin Powell, former defense secretary Robert Gates, and former health and human services secretary Mike Leavitt are just the “statesmen” for the job, they say.
(Yes, we know Gates worked in the Obama administration, too, but the way he took down Vice President Joe Biden in his book this year might make him an awkward choice.)
Wolf told the Loop in a telephone interview that the government’s response to Ebola needs a public face who is trusted by both the American people and global leaders.
At his White House briefing on Monday, press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration already has a point person in Lisa Monaco, a homeland security adviser, who is in charge of “interagency response.”
But Wolf said the job is so demanding it requires someone who can pick up the phone, call a foreign leader and be patched right through.
Republicans have been critical of the White House response to the crisis, turning it into a campaign issue and most recently calling for stricter travel limits on people coming to the United States from West Africa.
Earnest ended his daily briefing saying that public health professionals “continue to be confident that the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is exceedingly low. Okay?”
Did you get the Evite to the big launch of former CIA director and defense secretary Leon Panetta’s new bestseller, “Worthy Fights”?
No? Too bad. The bash, “A Worthy Celebration for Leon Panetta,” promises to be the sine qua non of the pre-Halloween party season.
Panetta has certainly done his part lately to spook the White House.
The book, as we recently noted, includes a scorching takedown of President Obama’s foreign policy operation and says Panetta was thwarted in his effort to keep a residual U.S. force in Iraq.
Lest the point was lost, Panetta zeroed in on his former boss in an interview published Monday. Obama has “kind of lost his way,” Panetta told USA Today’s Susan Page.
And then the heavy artillery: Obama has a “frustrating reticence to engage his opponents and rally support for his cause,” Panetta says in the book, and too frequently “relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader.” Sometimes, he writes, Obama “avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities.”
(We should note that Obama, in hiring Panetta, also directly violated what’s known as the Glenn Kessler Rule: Never, ever, hire someone for what will be his or her last job in government. )
Judging from the location — the beautiful and large Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue NW — a big crowd is expected.
The party promises to be a star-studded affair, given the excerpt and Panetta’s remarks Monday. One might look for attendees to include folks such as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who have sharply criticized Obama’s decision to pull out U.S. troops in 2011. (Oddly enough, it was Panetta who forcefully defended the administration’s decision against McCain’s strident criticisms. At a hearing, Panetta insisted to McCain that the idea that the administration didn’t push the Iraqis hard enough to accept a residual U.S. force was “simply not true.”)
Might want to put out a BOLO for any White House folks, especially from the National Security Council, who show up at the party. And if one of them buys a book, please send a photo.
Don’t be the only one on your block not there. Valet parking available.
Retired Marine Gen. John R. Allen, Obama’s special envoy to coordinate the interagency and international effort against the Islamic State, has sent word around to folks in the agencies that everyone should stop using the word “destroy” when describing the mission against the group.
Allen who had been the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan before his retirement, said that word was too “imprecise.” (He might have also said “impossible” and, with no boots on the ground and the Iraqi “army” in shambles, something not likely to happen unless some of Sunni Iraq is leveled.)
So from now on, Allen is encouraging folks to use the word “degrade” to describe the task at hand. We gather that means sort of smack them around a bit, stall further progress, push them out of Mosul and get them to lay off the Kurds?
Sounds like a plan. But didn’t Obama say “destroy”?
Jonathan McBride, head of presidential personnel — the office that selects all presidential appointees — is leaving the administration. McBride, who worked in the Senate for Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) from 1992 to 1995 and for Goldman Sachs from 1997 to 2000, was named deputy personnel director in 2009 and became head of the office in July 2013, replacing Nancy Hogan.
President Obama praised McBride for having helped ensure the administration got “dedicated public servants who work diligently and effectively each day to move our country forward,” adding that he was “grateful to Jonathan for his service, judgment and sound counsel.” Those recruits include Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald, and Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.
No word on where he’s going — somewhere private-sector — but five years dealing with whining, never-satisfied applicants and jousting with heavyweight Democrats, as well as the frustration of a gridlocked confirmation process, is enough for anyone. No doubt the Obama personnel operation will wind down considerably as the administration enters its final two years.
Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz