Eschews simple-minded assessment: As of yesterday, President Trump has apparently elevated the World Health Organization to the status of current scapegoat-in-chief.
How well did the WHO perform with respect to the outbreak of the coronavirus in China? For ourselves, we have no idea. For that reason, we thought we'd show you what Ron Klain recently said.
Klain served as "Ebola czar" during Obama's second term. He appeared last Thursday on The Last Word, as Trump was ramping up his attack on this latest target.
Lawrence O'Donnell asked Klain about the WHO. We were struck by his nuanced assessment:
O'DONNELL (4/9/20): Ron Klain, Donald Trump versus the World Health Organization. Which side do you want to defend?Klain saying it doesn't make it so; that's especially true with assessments of motive. But we were struck by the nuanced approach he took to this newly-fraught matter.
KLAIN: Well, look, I'll start here. I've been a long-time critic of the World Health Organization.
They did a miserable job on Ebola when we were working with them. There have been some reforms, some new leadership since then. I think they've done a better job here. But they definitely have made mistakes.
But Donald Trump attacking the World Health Organization is like an F student attacking a B-minus student, OK?
It's not that the World Health Organization has not made mistakes. They have. It's that Trump has made worse mistakes. And ironically, one of those horrible mistakes was saying, on February 24, the World Health Organization was very smart and doing a very great job.
So what's happening here, Lawrence, is not that Donald Trump has any legitimate criticisms in his eyes of the World Health Organization. He's just trying to deflect blame from his failures on testing, his failures to act promptly, his failures to get the protective gear in place.
He wants to put the blame someplace else. He's the president who stood in the Rose Garden and said, "I take no responsibility for this." And having failed in that defense, he's now just trying to push the blame someplace else.
There are legitimate criticisms to be made of the WHO's response to this crisis, Klain said. It's just that Trump's mistakes and bungles have been so much worse.
Our view? You rarely see such nuanced assessments on cable. Unless you're watching ESPN, where the debates tend to be more intelligent than those on cable news.
On cable news, the tendency is clear. If Trump is opposed to X, Y or Z, there will be a tendency in liberal circles to say that X, Y or Z must be great. There's a tendency to take the tribal approach, to favor one side while blasting the other.
(Note the way O'Donnell framed the question. "Which side do you want to defend?")
Klain didn't play it that way. He didn't defend either side. In that sense, his assessment struck us as unusual.
On ESPN, nuanced assessments are much more common. We sometimes watch that channel's discussion shows just because it's reassuring to see the range of perspectives we humans can still bring to our assessments.
Because the network mainly deals with sports, assessments made on ESPN don't actually matter. Assessments made on cable news channels do.
But to our eye, the pundits we see on ESPN—often, they're retired NFL linemen—often seem smarter than those on cable news. They're more likely to acknowledge the various sides of a topic. We'll rate that "sad but true."
Klain does find fault with the WHO's performance. He gives them only a B-minus hrade, but he also says that Trump's performance has been a great deal worse.
We can't assess the WHO. We were struck, last Thursday night, by Klain's unusual performance.