He is claiming his response to Covid-19 is better than the previous administration's response to H1N1

“#USAxAUS” by White House is in the Public Domain

A commenter noted this tweet in today’s open forum. It was presented as though it was from today, but surely, I thought, this was from early in the current pandemic. So, off to Twitter I went:

There is a lot here, but let’s start with the glaringly obvious:

Worldometer has the US death toll from Covid-19 at 80,125.

According to the CDC , the final H1N1 death total in the US was 12,469 from April 2009 to April 2010.

Covid-19 has killed 6.43xs as many people in less than three months than H1N1 did in a year.

It depresses me that if in a few weeks I look back at this post for some reason (as I have done with several others over the last few weeks) that I will find 85,125 to be a significantly smaller number than whatever number future me is dealing with at that time. Indeed, I hopped back to a May 2nd post to check a date and the number that day was 65,753–meaning more Americans have died from Covid-19 since just over a week ago (14,372) than died of H1N1 in a year.

Recognizing that H1N1 was less dangerous than Covid-19, in what rational universe (yes, I know) would one think this a good comparison?* By what possible metric would he even want to bring up H1N1? It is quite strange.

In a laugh so you don’t cry moment, I would note the CDC’s description of their H1N1 response:

CDC’s response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic response was complex, multi-faceted and long-term, lasting more than a year.

Can anyone call the Trump administration’s response as “complex” or “multi-faceted”? And since Trump wants to pretend like we can flip a switch and go back to normal, it isn’t even “long-term” (and there is decidedly little in the way of long-term thinking about any of this).

I would note, too, the reference to Trump’s touchstone that is supposed to prove he acted quickly: the “ban” on travel from China. I am going to agree that travel restrictions from China and elsewhere made sense. However, just stating there is a “ban” (which wasn’t a ban, because Americans could still come home) isn’t enough.

I call it a touchstone because he (and often his supporters) mention the “ban” in a talismanic fashion as it wards off all criticisms that Trump didn’t act fast enough (combine the ban with the fact that Trump mentioned coronavirus in his SOTU and one is supposed to believe that a comprehensive response was in place).

The “ban” was far from an efficacious response.

First, Trump has a childlike fascination with the word “ban” insofar as he acts like putting a ban in place is like raising the shields on the USS Enterprise. It is just far too simplistic a way of thinking and it doesn’t work like a force field.

Second, even if restricting travel made sense (after all, travelers are the vehicle by which the disease spreads), you can’t pretend like banning Chinese from traveling and then letting tens of thousands of Americans return home without some kind of testing process and/or self-isolation requirements was a way of stopping the spread of the virus.

Third, the virus was already in the US when the restrictions were put in place. This was the proverbial fixing the barn door after the horse has come home. The restrictions were issued on January 31st. We had already had five confirmed cases (indeed, the statement from the White House starts out by stating there were confirmed cases in US). By late January it was too late for travel restrictions designed to keep the virus out of the US to be efficacious. Again: the virus was already here.

Yes, travel restrictions would have slowed additional spread, but by that point in time we needed a comprehensive plan. Instead of a plan, we were given magical thinking. A month (February 28, 2020) after the restrictions on travel to China were imposed, Trump said:

And you know what?  If we were doing a bad job, we should also be criticized.  But we have done an incredible job.  We’re going to continue.  It’s going to disappear.  One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.  And from our shores, we — you know, it could get worse before it gets better.  It could maybe go away.  We’ll see what happens.  Nobody really knows.


To think of it — with all of what you see going on — 15 people.  We brought in the others, but — and they’re doing good.  But 15 people is almost, I would say, a miracle.

Fourth, the outbreak in New York has been demonstrated to have come from Europe, not Asia. This started in mid-February. Trump did not restrict travel from Europe until mid-March. And, again, that set of policies did not include any kind of plan beyond “shields up.” It led to a James Joyner post entitled Trump Packs Airports with Potentially Sick People.

Quite frankly, the entire assumption that travel restrictions alone were in any way an effective response to a pandemic demonstrated a simplistic, unserious, and incomplete response.

One more thing from the tweet: I really despise the rhetorical “We are getting great marks” and they got “bad marks” bit. It is meaningless. There is some entity out there giving out grades on these things. And if there were, one could state who was giving said marks and why.

A side note in conclusion: most of Trump’s Twitter feed this morning is all about Flynn and Russia and his victory dance over Barr dropping charges against Flynn. He clearly wants to think about something other than Covid-19.

*BTW, I think I contracted H1N1 in February of 2010. I don’t know for certain, as I was never tested. It was one of the worse flus I have ever had, but it sounds nothing like what people with bad Covid-19 cases are experiencing.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. drj says:

    Can anyone call the Trump administration’s response as “complex” or “multi-faceted”?

    Sure. Their story changes all the time and is pretty hard to keep track of.

    (This response was as serious as Trump’s tweet. Perhaps a midge funnier. More self-awareness, too. But that’s an exceedingly low bar to clear.)

  2. CSK says:

    In today’s open forum, I asked who, precisely, was according Trump and Co. these “great marks.” I’d still like to know. Could it be all those doctors who allegedly marveled over and complimented him on his vast medical knowledge?

  3. Kathy says:

    I never listen to anything Trump says, because it’s all either false, wrong, stupid, misleading, idiotic, irresponsible, moronic, mean-spirited, insulting, childish, ridiculous, obtuse, self-aggrandizing BS, absurd, or just a lie.

  4. CSK says:

    I can understand that. But–and it’s a big but–40+% of the country seems to hang on his every word. Even his non-stop self-contradictions don’t bother them.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    Far worse than being delusional is putting your faith in someone delusional. We’ve achieved symbiosis between people in varying delusional states. Haters, fantasists and morons have come together to support a crazy person who advises them to drink bleach.

    This has never been about Trump, it’s the American people who are sick in the head.

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    I doubt any Trumpie will even try, they know by now that their beliefs don’t hold up to criticism, so they either don’t try at all, or attempt to conceal their loyalties, imagining that if only they can pose as non-partisan their bullshit will survive scrutiny.

  7. Kathy says:


    You know the saying that countries get the government they deserve? Rather it’s the group that decides the election gets the government it deserves.

    In most countries, this is the majority. Not in America, alas.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    First, Trump has a childlike fascination with the word “ban” insofar as he acts like putting a ban in place is like raising the shields on the USS Enterprise. It is just far too simplistic a way of thinking and it doesn’t work like a force field.

    You see the same thing in his response to testing of his staff. Somehow finding his valet positive proved testing is worthless. Presumably someone told him they were testing to keep him safe, and to him that meant testing had some talismanic effect in warding off infection. A “force field” effect. I believe I began saying he’s Dunning-Kruger incarnate during the primaries.

  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman is worth appropriating with regards to Tiny;

    every word she (he) writes (says) is a lie, including “and” and “the.”

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Michael sums it up nicely, it is bad enough that Tiny is delusional, mental illness can strike anyone.

  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: And the frustration of those who know what Trump is changes the minds of that 40+% not one whit. Witness Guarneri and JBK and their ramblings. Helplessness is very frustrating. I do get it.

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    As Hitler was blowing his brains out, as Soviet troops were raping their way into central Berlin, as every plane they saw in the sky above was British or American, there were still Germans who thought their Cult Leader would somehow pull out a win.

    Step one, you join the cult. Steps two you lie and rage to defend your cult. Step three: the Covid Kool-Aid. Step four – if you survive – you spend the rest of your life lying about what you did.

    The alternative for Culties is facing the truth: that they were fools. People strong enough to admit mistakes are too strong to have joined the cult in the first place.

  12. DrDaveT says:

    Can anyone call the Trump administration’s response as “complex” or “multi-faceted”?

    When you chuck the empty Thunderbird bottle out the back of your El Camino and it hits the cement pavement behind you, the result is both complex and multi-faceted.

  13. senyorDave says:

    Just think if there had been twitter throughout history. Neville Chamberlain could be bragging about what a great job he did with the Munich Agreement. Hell, he could be tweeting a critique of Churchill as London was being bombed, saying if he was in charge none of this would have happened.
    I never though it would be possible for anyone in charge, much less a president, to literally make up shit on a daily basis and feed it to his minions, and have them buy into it 100%. But there are many firsts these last three and a half years. For example, I never though we would have an AG worse than John Mitchell.

  14. Kylopod says:
  15. Scott F. says:

    We are getting great marks for the handling of the CoronaVirus pandemic, especially the very early BAN of people from China, the infectious source, entering the USA. Compare that to the Obama/Sleepy Joe disaster known as H1N1 Swine Flu. Poor marks, bad polls – didn’t have a clue!

    Is this delusional if, as others have noted, +40% of voters believe it to be true? It’s the profound gaslighting that will be the end of us. Trump’s twitter is a direct line to the Trumpkins and his tweets are gospel to these people.

    6.43xs as many people dead in less than three months than H1N1 over a year. Unemployment higher than any time since the Great Depression. Yet, Trump’s approval ratings are still 11% higher now than George H.W. Bush’s lowest point going into the 1992 general election.

    When, god willing, Trump loses in November, what will his twitter say then? It was a rigged election with scam votes – he’s already started that pitch on his gaslight feed. And the 40% will believe him. And the GOP will back him up. And the cos-players with their automatic weapons will march on the Capitol and decent people will be rightfully terrified.

    @Michael Reynolds: what will be the analogous British and America planes in our 2020 scenario?

  16. CSK says:

    Yes. That captures it. What a repulsive creature that man is. The very sight of him makes my skin crawl.

  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Scott F.:
    25% unemployment.

  18. Jay L Gischer says:

    I wonder if some fraction of those 40% who hang on his words look to his tweets not to know what is “true” but for what the current story is. They don’t really care if it’s true or not, just whether its defensible or not. As long as he keeps delivering things they want, they are happy with him.

  19. Slugger says:

    Obama was given a crashing economy and Dow Jones. When the flu hit a month or so after his inauguration, the unemployment rate was declining and continued to do so, and the Dow Jones was rising and continued to do so. Now, I certainly don’t think that that was all Obama’s doing, and I know that Obama made mistakes including some doozies, but this Trump comment is bizarre, crazy.

  20. Scott F. says:

    @Jay L Gischer: If the interviews at his rallies are any indication, the 40% believe what Trump says is true and everything else is fake, including what they can see with their own eyes. That’s why he can continue to NOT deliver the things they want (factories returning to small cities, The Wall, healthcare “better” than the Obamacare, etc.), yet maintain their unwavering approval.

    The tax cut and all the judges, including the Supremes, aren’t all that to the average Trumpkin. Those genuine accomplishments were for the sake of the donor class.

  21. Teve says:

    10 hours ago Trump tweeted that the Russia investigation was “The biggest political crime in American history, by far!” Then he tweeted out “OBAMAGATE!”

    Now #ObamaGate is trending on Twitter. The Trumpers are demanding that Obama be tried for treason for the Russia investigation.

  22. CSK says:

    Oh, yeah. That’s really gonna happen.

  23. EddieInCA says:

    I’m to the point where I no longer can have a conversation with any Trumpist. There is almost no common ground from which to start any sort of rational, fact based conversation.

    Economy? Trump oversaw the greatest turnaround in the entire history of the United States. Obama had ruined it before Trump arrived.

    Business acumen: Trump is a brilliant businessman, and his multiple bankruptcies prove it.

    Ethics: Trump is draining the swamp, getting rid of the “deep state”, and cleaning up the corruption in Washington.

    Pandemic: No one could have handled it better than Trump.

    Stock Market: Trump took a stalled stock market and gave it the boost is needed to take off. It was floundering until he took office.

    It’s not Trump. It’s #Cult45

  24. Larry Pepper says:

    Steven, Mr. Trump didn’t announce his ban until all the major airlines had already announced their stoppage of all China flights. So the actual mechanism of the ban was put in place by the airlines. This administration’s subsequent announcement was merely gilding the lily.

  25. @Larry Pepper: A fair point.

  26. Mike Schilling says:

    The “ban” was from an efficacious response.

    “Far” from?

  27. @Mike Schilling: Correct. Thanks for noting that.