President-elect Joe Biden announced Wednesday that former Obama administration staffer Ron Klain would be his White House Chief of Staff, the first official decision that Biden has made when it comes to staffing his new administration. The announcement, coming as it does during the worst pandemic of modern times, reminded many that Klain was Obama’s Ebola response coordinator when the U.S. narrowly avoided a mass outbreak in 2014.
Moreover, it reminded us that Klain spoke at a Pandemic and Biosecurity Policy Summit last year, and he did not speak well of the Obama administration’s response to the H1N1 virus outbreak of 2009.
From Fox News:
Klain – who was not involved directly in the H1N1 response but was a White House staffer at the time – said “a bunch of really talented” people were working on it, but “did every possible thing wrong.”
“Sixty million Americans got H1N1 in that period of time and it’s just purely a fortuity that this isn’t one of the great mass casualty events in American history,” Klain said. “It had nothing to do with us doing anything right, it just had to do with luck.”
Klain was warning about the possibility that future epidemic outbreaks could have more devastating effects.
The H1N1 influenza virus broke out in the U.S. in 2009 and resulted in about 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is believed that people aged 60 and over had antibodies from a previous flu strain – though younger individuals did not.
This isn’t about “catching” Klain saying something about his new boss. This is about the fact that Biden has been out there touting the Obama administration’s success with H1N1 and comparing it to the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus.
The suggestion is unmistakable: If Trump had taken the same steps with COVID as Obama/Biden did with H1N1, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now. We now have Biden’s VERY FIRST choice for his new administration saying, Yeah, no…we just lucked out.
Starting on January 20, Biden will have his chance to prove that he can handle a pandemic better than the man in the White House right now. Except, of course, with a vaccine on the precipice of rollout (thanks to Trump’s Operation: Warp Speed, mind you), he’ll probably just take credit for a response already packaged for him upon his arrival in Washington. Once again, Biden will have “luck” to thank for sidestepping tragedy.