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Obama Clears Schedule to Focus on Ebola10/20 06:23

   Rarely one to leave anything to chance, President Barack Obama is playing it 
by ear this week as his administration's response to the Ebola scare continues 
to evolve.

   CHICAGO (AP) -- Rarely one to leave anything to chance, President Barack 
Obama is playing it by ear this week as his administration's response to the 
Ebola scare continues to evolve.

   After waking up in his own bed Monday at his family's home in Chicago, Obama 
plans to vote early for the midterms and attend a fundraiser for Democrats. How 
he'll spend the rest of the week is anyone's guess.

   That's because Obama's schedule this week is a work in progress, in a 
departure from the normal practice in which the president's schedule is 
previewed days in advance. The blank slate reflects the White House's attempt 
to stay nimble, leaving Obama room to maneuver amid a public health crisis that 
has been anything but predictable.

   Last week, Obama twice had to cancel planned campaign trips at the last 
minute to stay in Washington to focus on Ebola. This week, Obama is hoping to 
avoid such last-minute cancelations and show he's singularly focused on the 
task at hand.

   So even though it's crunch time for the midterm elections, with Democrats 
counting on their president to help get out the vote, Obama hasn't made any 
promises to campaign this week with candidates. Even the U.S.-led military 
operation against the Islamic State group may take a lower profile as Obama 
seeks to reassure an anxious public that stopping Ebola in its tracks is 
Priority No. 1.

   White House aides have acknowledged the federal government's initial 
response to Ebola reaching American soil was lacking, and hope a more robust 
response now will make up for early errors. In a sign of how all-encompassing 
the Ebola situation has become, Obama convened a rare Saturday evening meeting 
of roughly 20 top aides and Cabinet officials to discuss Ebola.

   Obama's new "Ebola czar," Ron Klain, is expected to start work this week 
after being tapped by Obama on Friday to coordinate the government-wide 
response.

   On Sunday, the Pentagon announced it would form a 30-person support team to 
assist civilian medical professionals in the U.S. if needed, while the Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention prepared to revise safety protocols for 
Ebola that failed to prevent two hospital workers in Dallas from contracting 
the virus from a patient who later died.

   The seat-of-his-pants approach is a change of pace for Obama, who is 
typically reluctant to get sidetracked by events of the moment. His aides tend 
to hunker down when faced with setbacks outside their control. But in recent 
months, Obama has come under criticism for maintaining his schedule --- golf, 
vacation and all --- even when events in Iraq, Ukraine or the U.S.-Mexico 
border demanded his attention.

   During rallies Sunday for Democrats in Illinois and Maryland --- Obama's 
first of the 2014 midterm season --- Obama announced he would be among those 
casting their ballots when early voting in Illinois starts Monday. Obama plans 
to return to the White House on Monday night.


(KA)


 
 
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