Former President Barack Obama called the United States’ response to the coronavirus pandemic an “absolute chaotic disaster” and promised to campaign “as hard as I can” for former Vice President Joe Biden in a Friday call with 3,000 people who served in his administration.
In addressing the Trump administration’s response to the global coronavirus pandemic, Obama cited concerns about division and tribalism in the country and internationally. That has contributed to an “anemic and spotty” response to the health crisis, Obama said.
While the challenge would be difficult for any government to address, it has been an “absolute chaotic disaster” in the U.S., he said.
Obama blamed a “mindset of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everyone else'” in President Donald Trump’s administration.
Social distancing regulations in the U.S. have largely been determined by local authorities rather than the federal government. States have rolled out a patchwork of constantly changing rules that vary down to the county or city level at times.
U.S. coronavirus cases have reached about 1.3 million and deaths have topped 77,000.
During the call, Obama also reacted to the Justice Department dropping its criminal case against Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, saying he worried that the “basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.”
Obama has infrequently criticized Trump in the past. In late March, Obama appeared to take a swipe at Trump’s initial skepticism of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic,” Obama tweeted March 31, without directly naming the president.
Obama weighed in on the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak in the context of warning about the impact of Trump’s decision to ease up on fuel-efficiency standards the Democratic president had put in place to combat climate change.
Trump has claimed his administration’s response to the pandemic saved “millions of lives,” often citing moves to restrict China and Europe as successes.
In the White House’s response to Obama’s latest remarks, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not mention Obama directly.
“President Trump’s coronavirus response has been unprecedented and saved American lives,” she said. “While Democrats were pursuing a sham witch hunt against President Trump, President Trump was shutting down travel from China.
“While Democrats encouraged mass gatherings, President Trump was deploying PPE, ventilators, and testing across the country,” she said.
Last weekend, former President George W. Bush released a video encouraging Americans to stand up to the coronavirus pandemic that did not mention Trump, an omission that led to harsh criticism from Trump.
Contributing: David Jackson, Courtney Subramanian, The Associated Press