The Slatest

McConnell Calls Obama “Classless” for Describing Pandemic Response as a “Chaotic Disaster”

Donald Trump looks at a smiling Mitch McConnell.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell labeled—without irony—former President Barack Obama as “classless” after Obama described the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus as an “absolute chaotic disaster.” Obama made his comments on Friday on a wide-ranging private call to several thousand alumni of his administration. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany responded reflexively over the weekend, saying, “President Trump’s coronavirus response has been unprecedented and saved American lives.” The response, it should be noted, can be simultaneously unprecedented (hard to argue), better than doing nothing (and therefore saving lives), and also be an “absolute chaotic disaster”—or just bad.

“I think President Obama should have kept his mouth shut,” McConnell said in a Trump campaign interview with the president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump. “You know, we know he doesn’t like much [what this] administration is doing. That’s understandable,” McConnell continued. “But I think it’s a little bit classless, frankly, to critique an administration that comes after you. … Generally former presidents just don’t do that.”

Obama’s critique—which was leaked—is astonishingly mild given the context of the full quote and even more so considering the unhinged frothing at the mouth President Donald Trump engages in nearly daily about his predecessor. The reason that Obama’s comments are, in fact, news is because of how little we hear from him despite onslaughts of misinformation from Trump. Obama, on occasion, will stick up for his policies or principles that he holds dear. But there’s nothing that Trump can’t and won’t blame on Obama. A small, recent sampling:

The full context of Obama’s comment was even more measured and Obama-like. “This election that’s coming up on every level is so important because what we’re going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party,” Obama said on the call. “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. And by the way, we’re seeing that internationally as well. It’s part of the 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.”

Stay classy, Mitch.

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