May 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Obama rips Trump's coronavirus response as "absolute chaotic disaster"

Photo: Zahim Mohd/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama called President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic an "absolute chaotic disaster," according to a leaked web call with former members of his administration first obtained by Yahoo News.

Why it matters: Obama has rarely criticized his successor since leaving office in 2017, though he has been ramping up his virus-related social media as the death toll in the U.S. continues to increase. Last month, Obama tweeted that the country is still waiting for a "coherent national plan" to manage the virus.

What they're saying: During the web call, Obama urged former staffers to rally behind former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee who is expected to take on Trump in the November election.

  • "What we're fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy — that has become a stronger impulse in American life," Obama said. "It's part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty."
  • Obama acknowledged that the pandemic "would have been bad even with the best of governments," but added that it "has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset — of 'what's in it for me' and 'to heck with everybody else' — when that mindset is operationalized in our government."

The other side: Trump on Sunday defended his response to the pandemic, tweeting: "We are getting great marks for the handling of the CoronaVirus pandemic, especially the very early BAN of people from China, the infectious source, entering the USA. Compare that to the Obama/Sleepy Joe disaster known as H1N1 Swine Flu. Poor marks, bad polls - didn’t have a clue!"

By the numbers: So far, at least 1,309,541 people in the U.S. have tested positive for the virus and 78,794 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Go deeper: Trump allies sound 2020 election alarm over coronavirus slump

Go deeper

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Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

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The latest: Even with early curfews in New York City and Washington, D.C., protesters are still out en masse. Some protesters in D.C. said they were galvanized by President Trump's photo op in front of St. John's Church on Monday and threat to deploy U.S. troops in the rest of country if violence isn't quelled, NBC News reports.

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Photo: Brendan Smialowski /AFP via Getty Images

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What we're hearing: Aides say he hasn’t ruled out its use at some point, but that he's “pleased” with the way protests were handled last night (apart from in New York City, as he indicated on Twitter today) — and that for now he's satisfied with leaving the crackdown to states through local law enforcement and the National Guard.

What we expect from our bosses

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Workers — especially millennials and Gen Zers — are paying close attention to the words and actions of their employers during national crises, such as the protests following the killing of George Floyd in police custody.

Why it matters: American companies have an enormous amount of wealth and influence that they can put toward effecting change, and CEOs have the potential to fill the leadership vacuum left by government inaction. More and more rank-and-file employees expect their bosses to do something with that money and power.