In October 2019, an op-ed appeared in the pages of The Washington Post, written by Obama administration alum Ron Klain, the White House Ebola Response coordinator in 2014-15. In it, he talked about a program meant to bolster the nation’s front line health-care workforce to handle a challenge that could potentially mirror the Ebola threat of 2014. He warned that if the program were not renewed, it would fall apart — and the country would become vulnerable to the threat posed by a dangerous pathogen.
As it turns out, Klain’s words were prophetic, and just months later, a coronavirus outbreak that began in China would reach American shores, which would eventually sicken at least 20 million and kill at least 345,000 Americans to date (via The New York Times).
In November of 2020, President-elect Joe Biden chose Ron Klain to be his new chief of staff, bringing him back to the White House. Dr. Nicole Lurie, public adviser to the Biden campaign, told Politico at the time, “Klain’s Ebola work, in particular, has played into things hugely — starting back during the campaign with all our messaging and conversation about what to do.”
Klain names RFK as a source of inspiration
Ron Klain’s interest in politics started at a very early age.
A native of Indiana, Ron Klain credits the late Robert F. Kennedy for inspiring him to seek out a career in public service. He recalls that a few weeks before the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Kennedy’s team was in Indianapolis to identify a small business which was set up in an area that had seen urban renewal. The team opted to walk into a plumbing supply company which, as it turns out, belonged to Klain’s father.
In an op-ed he penned for The New York Times, Klain recalled the campaign stop, “40 years ago, when I was 7 years old, I met Robert Kennedy — a meeting that fired my interest in politics and changed my life. A photo taken that day of Kennedy and my family still hangs in our house, a treasured political relic.”
A political veteran who served as chief of staff for Biden before
Ron Klain is no political neophyte. A graduate of both Georgetown University and Harvard Law, the incoming chief of staff is a Washington D.C. veteran who has clerked for Supreme Court Justice Byron White, and was a staffer for Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts. He has served as chief of staff to two vice presidents, Al Gore and Joe Biden, and one attorney general, Janet Reno.
Years in D.C. also meant that Klain was in the room when some of the most significant events which shaped U.S. politics took place. For example, he was one of the leads in Al Gore’s fight to get the Florida vote recounted in 2000. Klain also played a part in the confirmation hearings of two Supreme Court justices: Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (via The Associated Press).
In announcing Klain’s appointment, President-elect Joe Biden highlighted his longtime aide’s track record, saying: “Ron has been invaluable to me over the many years that we have worked together, including as we rescued the American economy from one of the worst downturns in our history in 2009 and later overcame a daunting public health emergency in 2014.”
Klain's appointment met with approval across the Democratic Party spectrum
President-elect Biden’s decision to tap Ron Klain as his White House chief of staff has met with approval from major voices within the Democratic Party. After Klain’s appointment was announced, Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted: “@RonaldKlain is a superb choice for Chief of Staff. He understands the magnitude of the health and economic crisis and he has the experience to lead this next administration through it. Ron has earned trust all across the entire Democratic Party. She adds: “I’ve known @RonaldKlain for years and he is guided by his belief in public service and building opportunity for America’s working families. Let’s get to work!”
Former senior adviser to the Obama White House, Valerie Jarrett told AP that Klain’s appointment signaled the return of competency to the halls of power. “This is not a time for inexperienced novices,” she said. “We’ve seen over the past four years how much can go wrong when people who actually don’t understand how the government works are in charge.”
Further, Jarrett told AP a story involving Ron Klain’s time as the Ebola czar, at a time when there were worries that the virus would touch down in the United States. He advised the White House team at the time to: “Ignore the noise. Focus on the facts.” That kind of composed, confident advice will come in handy as the Biden team tries to navigate America out of treacherous waters.
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