WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former President Barack Obama described President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as “chaotic” in a conference call with former members of his administration, a source said on Saturday.
Obama has largely kept out of the fray even as Trump has blamed him and his Democratic administration for a variety of problems related to having sufficient supplies to battle the pandemic that has killed more than 75,000 Americans.
But in his call on Friday with 3,000 members of the Obama Alumni Association, people who served in his administration, Obama urged his supporters to get behind Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who is trying to unseat Trump in the Nov. 3 election.
The contents of the call were first reported by Yahoo News. A source familiar with the call confirmed them to Reuters.
Obama said the election “is so important because what we’re going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party.”
“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,” he said.
He said this is one reason why “the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty.”
“It would have been bad even with the best of governments. 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,” Obama said.
“That’s why, I, by the way, am going to be spending as much time as necessary and campaigning as hard as I can for Joe Biden,” he said.
Obama’s office declined to comment.
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Trump’s response to the coronavirus “has been unprecedented” and has saved American lives.
She harked back to the Ukraine inquiry launched by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives last year that led to House passage of articles of impeachment against Trump. The Republican-led Senate acquitted Trump early this year.
“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.
National polls show a tight race between Trump and Biden with six months to go until the election. Biden leads in several battleground states.
Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Chris Reese