Home U.S Barack Obama admits 'we weren't ready' for H1N1 outbreak in memoir

Barack Obama admits 'we weren't ready' for H1N1 outbreak in memoir


Barack Obama admits that he was ‘overconfident’ that he could pass his signature healthcare law and that his aides warned he could be ‘badly weakened’ if it failed., according to the first extract of Obama’s forthcoming memoir.

The revealing insight appears in an extract in The New Yorker of Obama’s much anticipated memoir, A Promised Land, which is due out on November 17. The 768-page tome will be priced at a hefty $45.

Obama also admits that ‘we weren’t at all ready’ for the H1N1 outbreak that killed 12,000 Americans and was ‘fortunate’ that it wasn’t as deadly as had been thought.

The former president has been writing his memoir since he left office when Trump won the 2016 presidential election and reportedly received a $65 million advance with Michelle Obama for book Becoming, which came out in 2018.

In the extract of ‘A Promised Land’, Obama looks back to the summer of 2009, which was known as the ‘Tea Party Summer’ because rallies against his administration expanded across the nation.

Michelle Obama claimed that Tea Party Republicans demonized her husband because they were ‘scared’ of them both. 

Obama admits in his new memoir that ‘we weren’t at all ready’ for the H1N1 outbreak that killed 12,000 Americans and was ‘fortunate’ that it wasn’t as deadly as had been thought

In the extract of 'A Promised Land', Obama looks back to the summer of 2009, which was known as the 'Tea Party Summer' because rallies against his administration expanded across the nation. Pictured: The Tea Party holds an Exempt America from Obamacare rally on Capitol Hill in Washington

In the extract of ‘A Promised Land’, Obama looks back to the summer of 2009, which was known as the ‘Tea Party Summer’ because rallies against his administration expanded across the nation. Pictured: The Tea Party holds an Exempt America from Obamacare rally on Capitol Hill in Washington

The first lady grabbed the remote while watching a Tea Party rally on TV and told Obama it was a ‘trip’ that they were so hate-filled. 

Michelle said: ‘They’re scared of you. Scared of us’.

Obama does not explain what they were scared of but it appears to be about him being the first black President.

He writes that heading to his own campaign events he was met with crowds of protesters and ‘all them seemed most interested in expressing their general contempt for me’.

He claims that they saw Obamacare, his healthcare law, as an ‘abomination’ and were intent on stopping it.

Surprisingly Obama, a former community organizer, admits he had a ‘grudging respect’ for how Tea Party leaders had mobilized their followers.

The revealing insight appears in an extract in The New Yorker of Obama’s much anticipated memoir, A Promised Land, which is due out on November 17. The 768-page tome will be priced at a hefty $45

He writes: ‘I’d spent my entire political career promoting civic participation as a cure for much of what ailed our democracy. I could hardly complain, I told myself, just because it was opposition to my agenda that was now spurring such passionate citizen involvement’.

But Obama soon found it hard to ignore what he calls the ‘troubling impulses’ at Tea Party rallies such as signs comparing him to Hitler or claiming he would set up ‘death panels’ to decide who would die.

Others made a big deal out of his middle name – ‘Hussein’ – or talked about the theory pushed by Donald Trump that he wasn’t born in America so wasn’t entitled to be President.

He refrained from calling them racist because it ‘wasn’t going to win over any voters’ but he knew that a large proportion of Americans ‘didn’t trust a word I said’.

Obama wonders if he could still reach such voters as he did during the 2008 election now that he lived in the White House and his image was ‘filtered through Fox News and other media outlets whose entire business model depended on making their audience angry and fearful’.

He writes: ‘I wanted to believe that the ability to connect was still there. My wife wasn’t so sure.

‘One night, Michelle caught a glimpse of a Tea Party rally on TV – with its enraged flag-waving and inflammatory slogans. She seized the remote and turned off the set, her expression hovering somewhere between rage and resignation.

‘It’s a trip, isn’t it?’ she said. 

‘What is?’

‘That they’re scared of you. Scared of us’. She shook her head and headed for bed’.

Michelle Obama claimed that Tea Party Republicans demonized her husband because they were 'scared' of them both. The first lady grabbed the remote while watching a Tea Party rally on TV and told Obama it was a 'trip' that they were so hate-filled. Michelle said: 'They're scared of you. Scared of us'

Michelle Obama claimed that Tea Party Republicans demonized her husband because they were ‘scared’ of them both. The first lady grabbed the remote while watching a Tea Party rally on TV and told Obama it was a ‘trip’ that they were so hate-filled. Michelle said: ‘They’re scared of you. Scared of us’

Obama wonders if he could still reach such voters as he did during the 2008 election now that he lived in the White House and his image was 'filtered through Fox News and other media outlets whose entire business model depended on making their audience angry and fearful'. He writes: 'I wanted to believe that the ability to connect was still there. My wife wasn't so sure. 'One night, Michelle caught a glimpse of a Tea Party rally on TV - with its enraged flag-waving and inflammatory slogans'

Obama wonders if he could still reach such voters as he did during the 2008 election now that he lived in the White House and his image was ‘filtered through Fox News and other media outlets whose entire business model depended on making their audience angry and fearful’. He writes: ‘I wanted to believe that the ability to connect was still there. My wife wasn’t so sure. ‘One night, Michelle caught a glimpse of a Tea Party rally on TV – with its enraged flag-waving and inflammatory slogans’

The president faced another challenge during 2009, the H1N1 outbreak, and admits in his memoir that he feared it would become like the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak.

He writes that what he knew about H1N1, also known as swine flu, ‘scared the hell out of me’.

Obama pulled together an inter-agency team to evaluate how ready the country was for the worst-case scenario and found that ‘the answer was that we weren’t at all ready’.

He writes that the few US vaccine makers had ‘limited capacity’ to ramp up production for a new one.

Then there was the question of how to distribute antiviral medicines, what safety guidelines to issue to hospitals, whether they would close schools and quarantine rules.

Ironically, these are exactly the same kind of issues faced by the Trump administration during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Veterans of Gerald Ford’s administration warned Obama about the ‘difficulties involved in getting out in front of an outbreak without overreacting or triggering a panic’, he writes.

Fortunately the number of cases of swine flu dropped in the summer and gave his team time to prepare for an expected onslaught. They considered closing schools for the rest of the year but rejected it.

Obama writes: ‘Although the United States did not escape unscathed – more than twelve thousand Americans lost their lives – we were fortunate that this particular strain of H1N1 turned out to be less deadly than the experts had feared’.

In the memoir Obama complains that by 2010 when the pandemic had abated it ‘didn’t generate headlines’ and claims he took ‘great pride’ in how his team responded.

During the current presidential campaign Obama has sharply criticized Trump for his handling of the coronavirus.

During the current presidential campaign Obama has sharply criticized Trump for his handling of the coronavirus

During the current presidential campaign Obama has sharply criticized Trump for his handling of the coronavirus

At a rally over the weekend (pictured) he said that it would have been 'challenging for any President' but Trump was uniquely unfit. Obama claimed to have left a 'pandemic playbook' for Trump after the Ebola outbreak in 2014 but they 'probably used it to prop up a wobbly table somewhere'

At a rally over the weekend (pictured) he said that it would have been ‘challenging for any President’ but Trump was uniquely unfit. Obama claimed to have left a ‘pandemic playbook’ for Trump after the Ebola outbreak in 2014 but they ‘probably used it to prop up a wobbly table somewhere’

At a rally over the weekend he said that it would have been ‘challenging for any President’ but Trump was uniquely unfit.

Obama claimed to have left a ‘pandemic playbook’ for Trump after the Ebola outbreak in 2014 but they ‘probably used it to prop up a wobbly table somewhere’.

Turning to Obamacare, Obama reveals that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, cautioned him against it and said it could ‘blow up in our faces’.

The former President’s aides said that most people were happy with their insurance and didn’t worry about the structural problems in the system.

Obama told them: ‘So what are we saying here? That despite having the biggest Democratic majorities in decades, despite the promises we made during the campaign, we shouldn’t try to get health care done?’

His adviser David Axelrod said: ‘We all think we should try. You just need to know that, if we lose, your Presidency will be badly weakened’.

Obama responded: ‘We better not lose then’.

The memoir says: ‘When I think back to those early conversations, it’s hard to deny my overconfidence. I was convinced that the logic of health-care reform was so obvious that even in the face of well-organized opposition I could rally the American people’s support’.

Obama admits that reforming healthcare was ‘personal’ because he always thought back to the night he and Michelle took their three-month-old daughter Sasha to the ER for what turned out to be viral meningitis.

He recalls the ‘terror and the helplessness’ as nurses gave their baby a spinal tap and that had they not had a pediatrician they could call in the middle of the night they may have missed it.

He also thought about his mother who died in 1995 of uterine cancer.

Obama had hoped to include Republicans in the decision making process but Emanuel dismissed it and ‘looked like he wished I weren’t the President, just so he could more vividly explain the stupidity of my plan’.

Emanuel said: ‘Making sausage isn’t pretty, Mr President. And you’re asking for a really big piece of sausage’.

Turning to Obamacare, Obama reveals that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, cautioned him against it and said it could 'blow up in our faces'. Obama admits that reforming healthcare was 'personal' because he always thought back to the night he and Michelle took their three-month-old daughter Sasha to the ER for what turned out to be viral meningitis

Turning to Obamacare, Obama reveals that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, cautioned him against it and said it could ‘blow up in our faces’. Obama admits that reforming healthcare was ‘personal’ because he always thought back to the night he and Michelle took their three-month-old daughter Sasha to the ER for what turned out to be viral meningitis

The president assigned much of the heavy lifting to Max Baucus, a conservative Democrat from Montana, who chaired the powerful Finance Committee and thought he could get the approval of his co-chair Chuck Grassley, a Republican. Their efforts to court Olympia Snowe (pictured), a former Republican Senator for Maine, failed as well

Chuck Grassley

The president assigned much of the heavy lifting to Max Baucus, a conservative Democrat from Montana, who chaired the powerful Finance Committee and thought he could get the approval of his co-chair Chuck Grassley (right), a Republican. Their efforts to court Olympia Snowe (left), a former Republican Senator for Maine, failed as well

The president assigned much of the heavy lifting to Max Baucus, a conservative Democrat from Montana, who chaired the powerful Finance Committee and thought he could get the approval of his co-chair Chuck Grassley, a Republican.

But as the months wore on and Grassley refused to commit, Obama became frustrated with Baucus and wanted to ‘grab him by the shoulders and shake him till he came to his senses’.

Their efforts to court Olympia Snowe, a former Republican Senator for Maine, failed as well.

In a rage Obama told an aide: ‘Tell Olympia she can write the whole damn bill!

‘We’ll call it the Snowe plan. Tell her if she votes for the bill she can have the White House – Michelle and I will move to an apartment!’

When the bill was watered down from the proposed government-sponsored insurance program, progressive Democrats were outraged – but Obama was angry with them too.

He writes: ‘I found the whole brouhaha exasperating. ‘What is it about sixty votes these folks don’t understand?’ I groused to my staff.

‘Should I tell the thirty million people who can’t get covered that they’re going to have to wait another ten years because we can’t get them a public option?’

The former president lambasted Democrats for ‘carping’ which ‘confused our base’ and ‘divided our caucus’.

They were ‘preemptively spinning what could be a monumental, if imperfect, victory into a bitter defeat’, the memoir says.

Failing to support him ‘contributed to a potential long-term demoralization of Democratic voters’, he complains.

The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010 but that November the Democrats lost the House after being given what Obama called a ‘shellacking’ in the midterm elections.

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