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GOP: Ebola "czar" Ron Klain steeped in politics, not medicine

Undated handout photo from Revolution, showing Ron Klain, who was tasked by President Barack Obama with running the government's response to the Ebola crisis.

AP Photo/Revolution

After critics accused the federal government of mishandling the first cases of Ebola diagnosed stateside, President Obama named Ron Klain, a former aide to Vice President Biden, as the government's Ebola response coordinator on Friday.

In his new role, Klain will oversee the multitude of departments and agencies involved in the government's response to the virus.

On Sunday, though, the administration's critics continued firing away, saying that Klain, whose background is in politics rather than emergency response or health care, might not be the best fit for the position he now holds.

"Mr. Klain is not a doctor. He's not a health care professional. He doesn't have background in these issues. But what he is, is a political operative," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told CNN. "We don't need another White House political operative...What we need is presidential leadership. The person who needs to be on top of this is the president of the United States, standing up and leading and treating it as a public health emergency."

Cruz said the government should be less concerned about convincing the public they have Ebola under control, and more concerned about actually keeping the virus under control.

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pennsylvania, seconded Cruz on "Fox News Sunday."

"The American people are looking for someone with some knowledge and expertise," Murphy said. "[Klain] has none in these fields."

Murphy said the government erred in downplaying the threat posed by Ebola, offering comfortable certainty instead of prudent caution. "So, we need to stop these over-certainties from these medical folks and I'm not sure that a czar that has no background can help that," he said.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, told CBS' "Face the Nation" that she was hopeful the president would name someone with both medical expertise and experience in responding to emergencies. She said former Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, who's also a physician, would have been a "much more appropriate" choice for the post.

"I don't know Ron Klain's emergency response experience," she said. "And I think, talking to constituents, so many people have said, 'You know, we didn't want somebody to give us spin, we want somebody to give us the facts.'"

The administration has brushed aside concerns about Klain's lack of medical expertise. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that the president was seeking "not an Ebola expert, but rather an implementation expert - and that's exactly what Ron Klain is."

Earnest cited Klain's experience overseeing the disbursement of the 2009 economic stimulus package under Vice President Biden as evidence that he'll handle the bureaucratic and managerial portions of his new job with aplomb.

And Sunday on "Face the Nation," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, defended the selection of Klain. Fauci said he and others are already providing the medical expertise, and what the government really needed was an experienced manager.

"What you need is a coordination and Ron will be doing that on a full-time basis," Fauci said. "There are health officials -- there's myself, there's the [Centers for Disease Control], there are others. You don't need to be a healthcare person, you need to be somebody who is a good organizer. And his experience is extraordinary. He has been chief of staff to a couple of vice presidents. He has a lot of experience."