Obama has weighed in only fleetingly on the political debates surrounding the coronavirus, focusing his social media pronouncements on praising front-line workers like those in hospitals and grocery stores and applauding people donating critically needed medical supplies.
Two weeks ago, the former president marked the 10th anniversary of the day he signed the Affordable Care Act into law, warning that the law is “still under political attack right when we need care the most.”
One day after President Donald Trump declared that he wanted to begin reopening the country by this weekend, Obama posted an article on his social media feeds about the strain on New York City’s hospitals that he said showed why Americans should “maintain social distancing policies at least until we have comprehensive testing in place.”
And last week, Obama took a thinly veiled swipe at Trump when the president rolled back auto fuel efficiency standards, writing, “We’ve seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic” and warning that “we can’t afford” a similar downplaying of the threat of climate change.
Obama has not weighed in publicly on one plan: that of his former No. 2, Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden. Biden last month released his own multipoint plan to combat coronavirus and lay the groundwork to be more prepared for future pandemics and added to it weeks later with a “emergency action plan” to revive the economy. Last week, he rolled out a checklist of recommendations for implementing and overseeing the $2.2 trillion rescue package Trump recently signed into law.
In the Vox interview that Obama praised, Warren criticized the Trump administration for its lack of a consistent, coherent plan to fight the outbreak. The Massachusetts senator dismissed Trump’s resistance to a strong federal response, describing his preference to let governors go their own way “just simply wrong.” In particular, Warren pointed to states battling against one another for critical medical supplies, asserting that the federal government should step in to allocate supplies based on need rather than allowing wealthier states to outbid poorer ones.
Warren also argued that when it comes to restarting the economy, which has come to a near-standstill in many areas, “only the federal government can cushion the economic blow here in a meaningful way.” She railed too against the lack of widespread coronavirus testing, claiming the data gleaned from such testing can be used to keep an eye on hot spots for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Another area in which the White House has gone wrong, Warren added, is its “America first” posture that has the U.S. competing with other countries for resources and moving to ban the export of medical supplies in critical need around the globe.
“What you’re asking is the question we face all the time around climate change: We may be in competition with other countries economically and politically, but when it comes to saving the planet, we have to find a way to work together,” Warren explained. “There’s no such thing as saving the United States of America and letting the rest of the planet burn up.”
A still larger problem, Warren suggested, is how Americans will mobilize once the biggest threat from the virus passes and segments of the economy begin to reopen. Warren argued there’s no better time to adopt some of her key campaign promises: cancel student loan debt, invest in hardening infrastructure against the effects and invest in solutions to the housing crisis.
She also called for putting aside partisan animus in future stimulus packages, accusing Republicans of hamstringing Obama during the Great Recession.