Obama makes veiled attack over Trump’s handling of Covid pandemic in new book

In what will be Mr Obama’s third book, A Promised Land, the 44th president talks about how his administration handled the H1N1

Andrew Buncombe
Wednesday 11 November 2020 20:07
Obama mocks Trump: ‘Tweeting at the TV doesn’t fix things’

Barack Obama has made a veiled attack over Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, in a forthcoming memoir that is widely expected to be an international best-seller.

In what will be Mr Obama’s third book, A Promised Land, the 44th president talks about how his administration handled the H1N1, or swine flu pandemic, that struck the US in 2009, and eventually killed 12,000 people.

He writes that to handle the challenge, he set up a special task force, and sought advice from those who served in the administration of President Gerald Ford, which had to handle a similar swine flu pandemic three decades earlier.

He says he was told that strong leadership from the White House was required, but that scientists needed to spearhead the response.

In the book, an extract of which was published in the New Yorker, Mr Obama says he was told  - “You need to be involved, Mr President, but you need to let the experts run the process”.

He adds: “My instructions to the public-health team were simple: decisions would be made based on the best available science, and we were going to explain to the public each step of our response—including detailing what we did and didn’t know.”

Coronavirus in numbers

Though he does not refer to Mr Trump in that specific part of the book, his words will likely be seen as containing a rebuke of the current president, and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Trump has repeatedly played down the seriousness of the illness, failed to promote the wearing of face masks and was himself infected.

The death toll here from the virus currently stands at at 240,000, and more than 10.3m people have been infected. A third wave of outbreaks has been seen in several states and President-elect Joe Biden, who served as Mr Obama’s vice president and was involved in the response to the swine flu crisis has warned the country is “facing a very dark winter”.

Interest in Mr Obama’s two-volume memoir is intense. The New York Times said more than a million copies of he book, to be released around the world on November 17 in 25 languages, were being printed in Germany and shipped to the US in order to try and meet demand.

Mr Obama and the former first lady, Michelle Obama, sold their memories to Crown, an imprint of  Penguin Random House, for $65m in a deal that broke previous records.

In a statement, Mr Obama said:“I’ve spent the last few years reflecting on my presidency, and in A Promised Land I’ve tried to provide an honest accounting of my presidential campaign and my time in office: the key events and people who shaped it, my take on what I got right and the mistakes I made, and the political, economic, and cultural forces that my team and I had to confront then — and that as a nation we are grappling with still.”

Some will not be surprised to find criticism of Mr Trump’s handling on the pandemic in the book. During the 2020 election campaign, during which Mr Obama campaigned on behalf of Mr Biden, he was often scathing.

“Let me say this: I lived in the White House for awhile,” Mr Obama said in Florida. "You know, it's a controlled environment. You can take some preventive measures in the White House to avoid getting sick. Except, this guy can't seem to do it. He's turned the White House into a hot zone.”

Interest in the book will be increased when Mr Obama appears this weekend on a special edition of CBS’s 60 Minutes to discuss it.

He is due to speak to Gayle King and Scott Pelley in interviews conducted in Washington DC.

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