President Bush meets with former President George H.W. Bush, right, and former President Bill Clinton, right, in the Oval Office of the White House in 2005. (File photo: AP)
President George W. Bush turned to one of the world’s most exclusive clubs for help raising money after an Indian Ocean tsunami killed more than 200,000 people in 2004.
He paired his father, George H.W. Bush, and the man who defeated him to win the presidency in 1992, Bill Clinton. It worked so well that he signed the duo up again after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans less than a year later.
President Barack Obama followed the same playbook and sent Clinton and the younger Bush off on a fundraising effort for Haiti after a devastating earthquake in 2010.
Not President Donald Trump, who has no plans to seek his predecessors’ counsel during the coronavirus pandemic, a complex crisis with profound public health and economic consequences.
“No, not really. We’re doing a great job,” Trump said recently when asked if he would contact any of the living former presidents.
Even in the face of the greatest challenge of his presidency, Trump has expressed confidence in his team, and said he didn’t want to “bother” the former presidents. He added that he would reach out if he thought he could learn from them.
Instead, he has frequently criticized his predecessors, disparaging Obama’s handling of the H1N1 virus pandemic of 2009-2010 that killed nearly 12,500 Americans, and George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in which more than 1,800 people were killed, mostly in New Orleans.
“Look, I respect everybody, but I feel I have an incredible team and I think we’re doing an incredible job,” Trump said at the White House. “So I don’t want to disturb them, bother them. I don’t think I’m going to learn much. I guess you could say that there’s probably a natural inclination not to call.”
“Now, if I felt that if I called I’d learn something and that would save one life — it would save one life, OK? — I would make the call in two minutes,” he said. “But I don’t see that happening.”
That hasn’t stopped Clinton, Bush and Obama from getting involved in their own ways.
Obama, who has been deliberate about keeping a low profile during Trump’s presidency, has become more of a presence on social media during the pandemic. The Democrat has been posting health and safety tips from public officials, news reports and uplifting accounts of the ways Americans are coming together during the crisis.
His decision to share with his 115 million Twitter followers a recent Washington Post article about how viruses spread and can be slowed made it the newspaper’s most-read story ever, spokeswoman Molly Gannon said in an email.