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Ebola Sparks Obama to Shake Up Leadership Style

Obama is expected to announce his immigration overhaul Friday. (Reuters File Photo)
Obama is expected to announce his immigration overhaul Friday. (Reuters File Photo)

No drama Barack Obama has shaken up his daily routine to deal with the Ebola crisis — a marked shift in how the president has handled past crises on his watch.  

Obama’s crisis-management style has been to go about his routine as much as possible — even golfing after making a statement about the beheading of an American by the Islamic State terror group — or continuing campaign swings amid crises at home and abroad. The White House’s explanation, again and again, has been that the president is president 24/7 and he can do that job wherever he is.  

But whether it be the torrent of criticism he and his administration have received from Congress, his own terrible poll numbers , the elections a month away or an effort to assuage growing Ebola fears — the president has changed his approach.  

That started Wednesday, when news of a third Ebola case in the United States hit. Obama postponed a trip to Connecticut and Rhode Island. He convened a laundry list of top Cabinet officials and staffers and made a lengthy statement for the TV cameras, where he talked of hugging and kissing nurses who had treated an Ebola patient and promised a “much more aggressive” federal response.  

By the end of the night, a planned swing to Rhode Island and New York today was scrapped as the president decided to focus on Ebola instead.  

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest brushed off any thought that the president was considering the political implications of Ebola.
“The president believed it was important to convene the senior members of his team who were responsible for coordinating this response, and the president was not able to host that meeting and travel at the same time,” Earnest said. Earnest also struggled repeatedly to say who was in charge of dealing with the crisis. He downplayed the idea that White House adviser Lisa Monaco was in charge — after saying a day earlier she was in charge of coordinating the response  by the various government agencies.  

The obvious answer would seem to be “the president” is supposed to be in charge.  

It took until the end of Wednesday’s briefing — and a leading question on that front — for Earnest to come around to that answer.  

“The buck stops with the president, right?” asked NBC’s Chris Jansing.

“No doubt. That’s always true. That’s always true,” Earnest said.

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