It was Rahm Emanuel who famously said, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.” The president, for whom he served, as Chief of Staff, seems to have not forgotten that lesson. On Tuesday the 44th president took to Twitter to criticize “those who denied warning of pandemic,” and tie it to the need to end climate change denial.
We've seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic. We can't afford any more consequences of climate denial. All of us, especially young people, have to demand better of our government at every level and vote this fall. https://t.co/K8Ucu7iVDK
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) March 31, 2020
He quote tweeted an article in the LA Times about President Donald Trump rolling back efforts to fight climate change. This was an obvious political dig at the president at a time when Americans are dealing with a frightening virus, a collapsing economy, and many of its largest cities effectively shut down.
Even if we take a generous and unlikely view of the tweet and suggest that it is also criticizing Democrats like Joe Biden who intimated that Trump’s closing of travel from China in late January was an act of xenophobia, or like Mayor Bill de Blasio who was telling people to go to the movies as late as March 2, its still a bush league thing to use this crisis to push his political hobbyhorses.
Customarily, former presidents give those who follow them a wide swath and rarely are directly critical. Obama himself was certainly given that respect his predecessor George W. Bush. There is a very good reason for this tradition, which is that the office of the presidency itself should stay above the fray of politics.
If Barack Obama wants to champion legislation to fight climate change, by all means he should. If he wants to say we need to be doing more, or even that the federal government’s rolled back efforts should be expanded, fine. But to do so in reaction to an article directly linked to Trump, and use the pandemic to induce further fear when many Americans are already terrified is frankly unthinkable.
There are myriad ways Obama could use his fame, power and influence to help fight the coronavirus, which, by the way is the enemy right now, not those on the other side of the political aisle. Choosing instead to launch an attack on the sitting president is the opposite of helpful.
Even the comparison itself is frankly absurd; no scientist believes that the ravages of climate change might kill 100,000 Americans in the coming months. I don’t even think Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would suggest such a thing. It’s absolutely apples and oranges. Climate change is a global concern that the United States has little control over and the consequences of which will happen slowly going into the future. The Chinese virus is an absolute crisis right this minute, the consequences of which are upon us. With all due respect, Obama needs to sit this one out.