Obama Takes Very Unsubtle Dig at Trump's Leadership During Coronavirus Pandemic
The former president tweeted this week that the U.S. was still waiting for "a coherent national plan"
Former President Barack Obama voiced his clearest concern yet about President Donald Trump‘s coronavirus response on Twitter on Wednesday, writing that there was still no “coherent national plan” to combat the spread of the respiratory illness.
“While we continue to wait for a coherent national plan to navigate this pandemic, states like Massachusetts are beginning to adopt their own public health plans to combat this virus––before it’s too late,” Obama, 58, tweeted along with a New Yorker article about possible strategies to pursue against the virus.
Obama has been largely silent on his successor’s policies since 2017, reflecting a legacy of former presidents who then avoid criticizing the White House. He said in 2018 that he was “intent on following a wise American tradition of ex-presidents gracefully exiting the political stage and making room for new voices and new ideas.”
But he has been increasingly critical of how the Trump administration has handled the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
Trump, 73, and the federal government have been under intense scrutiny — initially because of issues rolling out testing kits nationwide and because of Trump’s changing tone on the seriousness of the virus.
More recently, Trump sparred with some governors over when the country should begin to reopen (falsely claiming he had “total” authority over the states), and he’s repeatedly lashed out at reporters who ask him questions he doesn’t like.
Trump insists he was well aware of the pandemic even before others were and that he saved tens of thousands of lives by stopping some travel from China in January.
But elsewhere he has described the virus as a kind of spontaneous calamity out of his control, and he previously downplayed it compared to the seasonal flu.
“How many people died in the United States? And yet I closed up the country, and I believe there were no deaths — zero deaths — at the time I closed up the country,” Trump told a reporter last week, exaggerating the extent of his travel bans. “Nobody was there. And you should say ‘thank you very much’ for good judgment.”
On Wednesday, he said, “Our aggressive strategy to battle the virus is working and that more states will soon be in a position to gradually and safely reopen. It’s very exciting.”
As of Thursday, about 42,000 people in the U.S. had died from the virus, according to a New York Times tracker.
Obama’s Wednesday tweet follows another late-March tweet he sent criticizing Trump in all but name. (There is no love lost between them: Trump, who defeated Obama’s former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, notoriously spread the conspiracy theory that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.)
“We’ve seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic. We can’t afford any more consequences of climate denial,” Obama wrote in March. “All of us, especially young people, have to demand better of our government at every level and vote this fall.”
Obama has also endorsed Trump’s likely challenger in November’s election: Obama’s former vice president, Joe Biden.
“I believe Joe has all the qualities we need in a president right now,” he said in an April 14 video endorsement of Biden.
“Democrats may not always agree on every detail of the best way to bring about each and every one of these changes, but we do agree that they’re needed. That only happens if we win this election,” Obama continued then. “Because one thing that everybody has learned by now: The Republicans occupying the White House and running the U.S. senate are not interested in progress. They’re interested in power.”
Obama had typically used social media during his post-presidency in a mild manner, mostly tweeting out articles about science, sharing positive human interest stories or sending birthday wishes to his wife, former First Lady Michelle Obama.
But he has become more active and more urgent.
Obama criticized Wisconsin’s decision to hold its election on April 10 after state Democrats there voiced concerns over ongoing social distancing efforts and the public health risk involved with in-person voting.
“No one should be forced to choose between their right to vote and their right to stay healthy like the debacle in Wisconsin this week,” Obama tweeted on April 10, adding, “Everyone should have the right to vote safely, and we have the power to make that happen. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
In mid-March, Obama reiterated health experts’ call for social distancing efforts to slow the virus.
Trump himself came around on that same strategy days later, and while he has criticized some local pushes to return to normal while the virus is still a threat, he has also praised protestors of stay-at-home measures.
The nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned during Wednesday’s White House coronavirus briefing that “there will be coronavirus in the fall.”
At that same briefing, however, Trump pondered that the virus “may not come back at all” and that if it does it’s “not going to be like it was.”
“I think that the nightly briefing has yielded a lot of inconsistent messages to the public — messages that put people in greater danger,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat whom Trump has criticized, told the Associated Press this week.
In Maryland, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said he was unsure why the president was unhappy with him for obtaining coronavirus testing kits from South Korea after the president encouraged states to figure out testing on their own.
“I’m really not sure what he’s upset about,” Hogan told Fox News on Tuesday. “We did what he told us to do.”
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.