McConnell calls Obama 'classless' for criticizing Trump's botched virus response

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Experts agree that Trump's failures worsened the nation's crisis.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attacked Barack Obama on Monday over his private criticism of Donald Trump's botched response to the COVID-19 pandemic, calling the former president "classless."

McConnell, who has himself frequently criticized Obama since the 2016 election, said at an online Trump reelection event that Obama "should have kept his mouth shut."

"You know, we know he doesn't like much this administration is doing. That's understandable. But I think it's a little bit classless frankly to critique an administration that comes after you," McConnell opined. "You had your shot. You were there for eight years. I think the tradition that the Bushes set up of not critiquing the president who comes after you is a good tradition." George W. Bush has also criticized Trump.

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McConnell was apparently responding to reports that Obama told former staffers in a private phone call on Friday that Trump's response to the pandemic has been "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 apparently observed.

Obama's view is shared by most Americans: A CNN poll released Tuesday found that just 42% of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling the coronavirus outbreak, compared to 55% who disapprove.

As the coronavirus was first detected in the United States in January, Trump repeatedly dismissed the threat, saying it was "totally under control." Throughout February, he predicted it would "miraculously" go away by April. Even into March, he suggested social distancing measures were unnecessary and that the country could reopen by Easter.

Despite promising on March 6 that "anyone that wants a test can get a test," Trump administration failed on their promise to distribute millions of tests by mid-March. Faced with widespread criticism for lack of available tests, Trump tried to shift the blame, first saying that testing was "up to the states" and then saying it is "a local thing."

Trump also refused to provide sufficient ventilators to states as hospitals struggled to deal with a shortage of the devices.

"The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we're not a shipping clerk," he complained in March.

Experts have said the administration's failures lead to the current crisis.

"We've been woefully behind this entire time. And I think what most Americans need to know is the reason we are shut down — our economy is shut down — is because we've had inadequate testing," Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told CNN on April 17.

"Our public health agencies were plagued by misfortune and made mistakes as the COVID-19 virus spread. But those problems could have been overcome by effective leadership. They weren't," wrote Stuart Shapiro, director of the public policy program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, in an April opinion piece. "And instead of overcoming them, the Trump administration, by pushing to reduce the capacity of government and pressuring agencies to minimize the impacts of the virus, made disastrous outcomes more likely."

McConnell's comments came the same day as Trump went after two female reporters at a press briefing. First, he told an Asian American journalist to "ask China" her "nasty question" about why he believes testing is a global competition. Then, when another journalist paused to let her ask a follow-up, Trump refused to hear the question and abruptly ended the press conference.

More than 1.3 million COVID-19 cases and about 80,000 deaths have been reported in the United States so far.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.