In a 30-minute conversation with members of the Obama Alumni Association, the former president said the response to the coronavirus outbreak served as a critical reminder for why strong government leadership is needed during a global crisis. The call was intended to encourage former Obama staffers to become more engaged in Biden’s presidential campaign.
“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. “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.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Saturday dismissed the criticism from Obama, saying in a statement to CNN: “President Trump’s coronavirus response has been unprecedented and saved American lives.”
“It’s part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty,” Obama said. “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.”
He added: “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.”
This story has been updated with the White House’s response to Obama’s comments.
CNN’s Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.