Tuesday, August 18, 2020


Today the president sent this tweet:

Subsequently, he spoke about the Obama administration's swine flu response at a news conference:

Is that true? Was there terrible Gallup polling for the Obama administration during the swine flu pandemic? Hmmm, let's see:

In a Gallup poll released April 29, 2009, the Obama administration's response to H1N1 got a 66% approval rating.

Trump says his Gallup numbers on the coronavirus pandemic are much better, but he's currently at 36% approval on that, and the best number he ever got was 60% in March (it dropped to 50% in April and 42% in June before arriving at its current low).

This isn't the first time Trump has attacked Obama and Biden on swine flu. Back in April, he tweeted this:

The Washington Post did a fact check -- which is interesting not just because Trump's characterization of the Obama administration's response was wrong, but because of what we learn about the very specific number Trump used.
[Trump] railed about the death toll ... inflating the figures to 17,000....

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that from April 12, 2009, to April 10, 2010, there were 12,469 deaths in the United States because of the H1N1 (swine flu) virus. That was the midpoint of an estimate that ranged from a low of 8,868 to a high of 18,306. As we noted, Trump often cites this figure as 17,000.

But that was an after-the-fact report, based on statistical modeling of excess mortality....

Only after the swine flu pandemic had passed did researchers use a time series analysis to estimate how many excess deaths in a given period could be attributed to the swine flu but were not counted in the official death statistics. About 6 in 7 deaths are believe to have been missed in the laboratory-confirmed count during the swine-flu pandemic, though such calculations count any death in which the flu might have been a contributing factor. Many deaths are triggered by the flu but occur later, via secondary bacterial infection or exacerbation of underlying chronic diseases, even as flu symptoms may have disappeared.
In other words, in April, Trump was taking a CDC estimate of swine flu deaths, settling on a high number in the estimated range, and accusing Obama and Biden of being responsible for a great deal of death. But researchers arrived at that estimate using techniques that right-wingers angrily criticize when they're used to determine the death toll of the coronavirus. When public health authorities try to estimate COVID-19 deaths, right-wingers become furious. Counting any death on which the virus "might have been a contributing factor"? That's a liberal plot to make Trump look bad!

And yet here he was using an estimate produced using that technique in order to attack Obama and Biden.

Of course, America's COVID-19 death toll is now roughly ten times the swine flu death estimate Trump found so appalling. So I guess that explains why this morning's Trump tweet didn't have any numbers in it. Even Trump is smart enough to walk away from that "17,000 deaths" talking point.

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