In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, Joe Biden has tried to present himself as the candidate best equipped to manage a crisis, but, as history has shown, he is perhaps the worst.
You only need to go back 11 years to see how the Obama-Biden administration handled the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic to see that. Biden himself was responsible for sending mixed messages, particularly during an appearance on the “Today” show on NBC when he said he’d tell his family not to fly on planes or ride the subway.
“I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places right now,” Biden explained. “It’s not that it’s going to Mexico, it’s that you are in a confined aircraft. When one person sneezes, it goes everywhere through the aircraft.” As Politico noted, the Obama administration was forced to “clean up the mess Biden made” because he’d contradicted Obama’s reassurances that there was no need to panic. Biden was actually probably right, though. According to the CDC, the H1N1 virus would go on to infect nearly 61 million Americans, and Ron Klain, who was Biden’s chief of staff at the time and is currently advising his campaign, says it was mere luck that H1N1 wasn’t more deadly.
“It is purely a fortuity that this isn’t one of the great mass casualty events in American history,” Klain said of H1N1 in 2019. “It had nothing to do with us doing anything right. It just had to do with luck. If anyone thinks that this can’t happen again, they don’t have to go back to 1918, they just have to go back to 2009, 2010, and imagine a virus with a different lethality, and you can just do the math on that.”
The true fatality rate for the coronavirus is not known yet, but here’s what the death count would have looked like for H1N1 if it had the same lethality as the coronavirus based on various estimates of its case fatality rate:
- World Health Organization (3.4%): 2.0 million deaths
- Dr. Fauci (2.0%): 1.2 million deaths
- The New York Antibody Study (.72%): 439,200 deaths
- Lancet Study (.66%): 402,600 deaths
- Santa Clara Antibody Study (.09% to .14%): 54,900 – 85,400 deaths
So, Mr. Klain was absolutely right that the Obama-Biden administration was essentially lucky that H1N1 wasn’t more lethal. It had only a .02 percent case fatality rate, so despite their inability to contain the virus (they didn’t close travel with other countries or implement social distancing) the widespread infection resulted in the deaths of 12,649 Americans over the course of the year. Klain points to the failure of the Obama-Biden administration to produce enough doses of the vaccine as the primary failure of their response.
The Obama-Biden administration had predicted in the summer of 2009 that they would have 160 million H1N1 vaccine doses by late October but only ended up with less than 30 million. According to a study by Purdue University scholars this failure cost lives because the H1N1 vaccine would arrive “too late to help most Americans who will be infected during this flu season.” The study determined that the CDC’s planned vaccination campaign would “likely not have a large effect on the total number of people ultimately infected by the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus.”
Even Politico couldn’t deny the facts. “An extensive review of the handling of H1N1, including the examination of public records and congressional testimony, suggests the response was not the panacea portrayed by the Biden camp and its defenders,” they explained. Biden’s role in the response has even been overstated—not just by Biden, by Barack Obama, who in his endorsement video credited Biden with helping him “manage H1N1” and preventing the Ebola pandemic from spreading.
The Obama-Biden response to the Ebola virus was also panned. Obama didn’t mention that it became the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded, or that The Hill described it as “an anchor threatening to sink the Obama presidency” after both the White House and the CDC said that there were multiple “shortcomings” in the administration’s response. Obama didn’t appoint an Ebola czar to coordinate the administration’s global efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic until seven months after the outbreak began. Ron Klain was ultimately appointed to that position.
The coronavirus is more deadly and more infectious than H1N1, and containment and mitigation efforts have so far succeeded in preventing the widespread infection that we experienced with H1N1. One can only imagine how much worse the coronavirus pandemic would be had the Obama-Biden administration been handling it.
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