Citizen Klain

Joe Biden, the next president, has selected Ron Klain to be his chief-of-staff. Klain is an old Washington hand with deep ties to Biden. He is the natural choice for chief-of-staff.

I met with Klain in the late 1980s when I was still a Democrat. We discussed the possibility of me working on the Hill.

I found Klain to be intelligent, likeable, and unpretentious. At that time, he had friendly relations with some D.C. conservatives from his time as a Supreme Court clerk for Justice Byron White, if not before.

Michael Scherer profiled Klain in today’s issue of the Washington Post. Scherer paints a glowing portrait. Among other things, he quotes Valerie Jarrett who gives Klain credit for preventing an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.

Missing from Scherer’s piece is any mention of the SARS outbreak. Joe Biden was the point man in dealing with SARS, and Klain was Biden’s go-to guy.

Klain has been honest enough to acknowledge that, but for the fact that this virus wasn’t very lethal, the U.S. would have experienced deaths on a horrific scale. He said:

It is purely a fortuity that this isn’t one of the great mass casualty events in American history. It had nothing to do with us doing anything right. It just had to do with luck. If anyone thinks that this can’t happen again, they don’t have to go back to 1918, they just have to go back to 2009, 2010 and imagine a virus with a different lethality, and you can just do the math on that.

I don’t blame Biden and Klain for not having done anything to prevent a deadly pandemic, any more than I blame Donald Trump for not preventing the coronavirus pandemic. It’s worth noting, however, that, as Klain admitted, “luck” was what distinguished the two outcomes.

In any event, it seems like journalistic malpractice for the Washington Post to tout Klain as the man who prevented an Ebola epidemic without mentioning his own less flattering assessment of the response to the SARS outbreak.