Ron Klain on Donald Trump and the Coronavirus Outbreak


I called Klain the other day to ask him how he knew, to such a granular degree, that the Trump-Fauci relationship would go sideways. “We knew already that Trump has a style of governing that rejects facts and that demands that people see the world his way, that they live in his counterfactual reality,” he said. “He also has a tendency to downplay threats, whatever kind of threats they are. I knew Dr. Fauci well enough to know that he was going to tell the truth and speak out and that sooner or later that would run afoul of the Trump approach to governance.”

Klain was in a unique position to make predictions about COVID-19. As the coordinator of Obama’s successful fight against Ebola, he had developed important knowledge about infectious disease. But he also gained an understanding of Trump’s destructive impact on public health.

“One thing people forget is that after ‘birtherism’ blew up on Trump, he faded from view for a little while and only emerged back into our politics around Ebola,” Klain said. “He was the leading public voice attacking Obama’s Ebola response. His tweets—there are studies that show this—were a main cause of the fear that galvanized around Ebola. He tweeted that the efforts to fight Ebola in West Africa were a mistake, that bringing home the doctor who had contracted Ebola in West Africa was a mistake—he said he should be left to die. Trump was completely unhinged from science, and this had a significant impact on the public psyche. It gave me an early indication of how he would handle a pandemic.”

What did Klain learn by watching Trump? Overpromising solutions in a pandemic is dangerous, but so is under-promising: “One of the reasons we’re in the mess we’re in is that President Trump believed, or simply said, that this virus would be gone like a miracle. It would be gone by Easter; it will be gone by Memorial Day.”

Biden, Klain said, will take a more nuanced approach. “President-elect Biden is very clear in saying that COVID is not going to go away in 100 days, that life will not go back to normal in 100 days. But it’s important for a leader in this situation to offer a mix of realism and hope. I don’t think you’re going to get people to participate in a response if you tell them that the slog goes on forever, that there are no midpoints, no progress. But you just can’t overpromise.”

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US President-elect Joe Biden chooses longtime adviser Ron Klain as chief of staff


President-elect Joe Biden has chosen his longtime adviser Ron Klain to reprise his role as his chief of staff, installing an aide with decades of experience in the top role in his White House.

Klain will lead a White House likely to be consumed by the response to the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to spread unchecked across the nation, and he”ll face the challenge of working with a divided Congress that could include a Republican-led Senate. Klain served as the coordinator to the Ebola response during the 2014 outbreak.

In a statement Wednesday night, Biden suggested he chose Klain for the position because his longtime experience in Washington had prepared him for such challenges.

“His deep, varied experience and capacity to work with people all across the political spectrum is precisely what I need in a White House chief of staff as we confront this moment of crisis and bring our country together again,” Biden said.

Klain served as chief of staff for Biden during Barack Obama’s first term, was chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore in the mid-1990s and was a key adviser on the Biden campaign, guiding Biden’s debate preparations and coronavirus response. He’s known and worked with Biden since the Democrat’s 1987 presidential campaign.

The choice of Klain underscores the effort the incoming Biden administration will place on the coronavirus response from day one. Klain has experience in public health as the Ebola response coordinator and played a central role in drafting and implementing the Obama administration’s economic recovery plan in 2009.

“I’m honoured by the President-elect’s confidence and will give my all to lead a talented and diverse team in a Biden-Harris WH,” Klain tweeted.

Choosing Klain is also likely to assuage some concerns among progressives who had been gearing up for a fight over one of the first and biggest staff picks Biden will make as he builds out his White House team. The chief of staff is typically a gatekeeper for the president, crafts political and legislative strategy and often serves as a liaison to Capitol Hill in legislative negotiations.

Progressives had expressed concerns that Biden would pick one of his other former chiefs of staff: Steve Richetti, who faces skepticism for his work as a lobbyist, or Bruce Reed, who is seen as too much of a moderate to embrace reforms pushed by the party’s base. But progressives see Klain as open to working with them on top priorities like climate change and health care.



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