News & Politics

FLASHBACK: Obama Played Golf the Same Day His Administration Declared H1N1 a Public Health Emergency

President Barack Obama during a round of golf on Martha's Vineyard in 2016 (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Despite Trump’s decisive actions early in the coronavirus outbreak (which experts agree saved lives) there seems to be a coordinated effort by the left and the media to undermine Trump during the crisis, and perpetuate the false narrative that the Trump administration is botching the response and that Trump is not taking the outbreak seriously.

It’s strikingly different from what happened during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, when the media was determined to present Barack Obama glowingly, especially in the middle of a recession. In retrospect, it seems the media was determined to prevent widespread panic, even as the H1N1 virus spread, and Obama faced criticism for failing to take common-sense measures to slow down the spread. When the pandemic was over, in the United States alone there were over 60 million cases of H1N1, 274,304 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths due to H1N1. Not once during the pandemic did Obama impose any travel bans. Schools didn’t shut down en masse, your favorite sports leagues didn’t cancel their seasons, concerts weren’t postponed, bars and restaurants weren’t shut down. In retrospect, the Obama administration didn’t take the threat seriously enough to make the tough decisions to reduce the rate of infection, and the media didn’t make it their cause to undermine him and create panic. In fact, they did the exact opposite. Here’s what the New York Times reported at the time:

Mr. Obama added, “We want to ensure that in the worst-case scenario, we can manage the situation appropriately.”

The president’s comments came at the end of a weeklong balancing act in which his public words and actions were carefully measured to summon a sense of urgency without setting off a panic. It was no coincidence, his aides said, that he played golf the day his administration declared a national emergency. And there were behind-the-scenes worries about whether he would be ridiculed for using a presidential news conference to urge people to wash their hands.

Can you imagine if President Trump played golf right after declaring a national emergency? Do you think if he had, the New York Times would have credited him with trying not to set off a panic? Obviously they wouldn’t. But Obama could do no wrong, even though at the end of the pandemic there were over 12,000 dead. As of March 15, the CDC reports there are 1,629 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States and 41 deaths.

But Barack Obama went golfing to show we shouldn’t panic over a pandemic that caused an average of 1,000 deaths a month and was praised for it. President Trump declared a national emergency two days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic. He was subsequently mocked by many for his announcement because he had previously urged the public not to panic.

Obama didn’t declare H1N1 a national emergency until four months after WHO declared it a pandemic. A thousand Americans had died by that point. But, according to the New York Times, all was well because Obama could still play golf.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis