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Opening Arguments

On the fly

CDC Director Thomas Frieden has "expressed regret" (love those weasel words) that he kept saying "Hey, we can handle this Ebola thing" when we clearly weren't ready for it:

The hospital that treated Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan had to learn on the fly how to control the deadly virus, adding new layers of protective gear for workers in what became a losing battle to keep the contagion from spreading, a top official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

“They kept adding more protective equipment as the patient [Duncan] deteriorated. They had masks first, then face shields, then the positive-pressure respirator. They added a second pair of gloves,” said Pierre Rollin, a CDC epidemiologist.

Despite the infection-control efforts, a nurse, Nina Pham, 26, somehow contracted Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas while caring for Duncan, a Liberian man who flew to the United States last month. Pham is being treated at the same hospital, and Tuesday she was reported to be in good condition. (On Wednesday, state officials announced that a second worker who cared for Duncan had also tested positive for the virus.)

The "learned on the fly," in other words "made it up as they went along." Now, that's scary.

A great deal of what I know about newspapering I learned on the job. In fact, I've learned more from the actual work experience than I ever did in college. I suspect most jobs are like that. But there are certain people we have to deal with that we very much want to know all they can from their first day at work. We don't want to think that the lawyer representing us at trial or the doctor diagnosing our illness or the firefighter responding to our alarm is still involved in -on-the-job training.

And throw in the president. The chief executive has a learning curve, too, and it takes them awhile to get up to speed on what the job actually is as opposed to what they thought it was. I think even the most partisan among us is willing to cut a president some slack for six months or even a year. But not after six years on the job.