During a town hall meeting with the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) in Laos earlier this week, President Obama essentially said that Americans are ignorant and lazy.
At a town hall in Laos, President Obama twice suggested that Americans are “lazy” — culturally and environmentally. pic.twitter.com/Ij7kzKjW5C
— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) September 7, 2016
First, Obama explained how some Americans refuse to buy into his progressive environmental agenda, and there’s a really good reason for that. Just kidding. It’s because those Americans are lazy and don’t want to change their lifestyles or live in a more sustainable way. It’s too inconveeeeeeeenient for them. (I don’t see him living in a solar powered tiny house, but whatev.)
“Usually when you see the environment destroyed, it’s not because it’s necessary for development,” Obama said. “It’s usually because we’re being lazy and we’re not being as creative as we could be about how to do it in a smarter, more sustainable way.”
Then, Obama suggested that Americans are ignorant and couldn’t care less about the rest of the world, because we’re self-centered and egotistic and don’t give a crap about other people.
“The United States is and can be a great force for good in the world. But because we’re such a big country, we haven’t always had to know about other parts of the world,” Obama said. “If you’re in the United States, sometimes you can feel lazy and think we’re so big we don’t have to really know anything about other people.”
But listen. Snopes wants you to know that we’re completely taking Obama’s words out of context.
Looked at objectively, it’s plain to see Obama’s statements were misrepresented in both cases. Beginning with the first, the claim that Obama said words to the effect of “Americans’ reluctance to embrace his favored environmental policies is a sign of laziness” is flat-out false.
Snopes argues that you have to look at the ENTIRE context of his remarks, and sure. I have no problem with doing that. Let’s take a look, shall we?
“And so part of the thing for young people like you, whether you’re in government or an NGO, you’re going to have to learn the best practices so that you can still grow, but you do so in a way that can be sustained over a long period of time. And look, the United States is still learning how to do this, and we’ve been at it a long time. But we used to have terrible pollution everywhere. And we ultimately passed laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and what we discovered was when you set rules to preserve the environment, that companies will adjust, and they’ll find new and innovative ways to make the same products and make the same amount of money, but do it in a way that actually is good for the environment.”
“So usually, if you see the environment destroyed, it’s not because that’s necessary for development. It’s usually because we’re being lazy, and we’re not being as creative as we could be about how to do it in a smarter, sustainable way.”
So… how did that change anything? He literally said that environmental damage is a sign of laziness on our end. He ACTUALLY SAID “if you see the environment destroyed, it’s not because that’s necessary for development. It’s usually because we’re being lazy…”
But Snopes argues:
Obama was making the point that economic development doesn’t have to come at the cost of the environment. When environmental destruction does occur, he was saying, it’s because we aren’t trying hard enough to figure out how to develop sustainably.
Yeah. Translation: Environmental destruction is a sign of laziness. He thinks we’re lazy.
Snopes also said that his second remark was taken out of context. Here’s their argument:
In the second instance, Obama is accused of accusing Americans, because they live in a big country, of being lazy, isolated and ignorant. Once again, let’s check the context. First, here’s the question Obama was asked:
“Good afternoon. I’m from Thailand. And my question is, in the next 10 years, what do you expect ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] people to think about the U.S.A, and why?”
President Obama said he hopes that the relationship between the United States and ASEAN will grow over the years but also warned that Americans have the tendency to be self-absorbed, culturally ignorant and again, lazy. Emphasis mine:
“Well, my hope is, is that the next President will continue my policy of meeting regularly with ASEAN leaders. We are working on a whole range of different issues, from how can we help develop health care networks so that people are getting better health care, but also so that we identify if there’s a disease and we can stop it before it starts spreading, to disaster relief, so that if there’s a typhoon that there’s local capacity to respond quickly, to economic development, to education. And some of these programs, they’ll take some years before they’re approved. And my hope is that 10 years from now, people will look back and they’ll say that the engagement that we began with ASEAN now has developed so that we have a very mature and deep relationship in all areas.”
“And I believe that the United States is and can be a great force for good in the world. But because we’re such a big country, we haven’t always had to know about other parts of the world. If you are in Laos, you need to know about Thailand and China and Cambodia, because you’re a small country and they’re right next door and you need to know who they are. If you you’re in the United States, sometimes you can feel lazy and think we’re so big we don’t have to really know anything about other people.”
“And that’s part of what I’m trying to change, because this is actually the region that’s going to grow faster than anyplace else in the world. It has the youngest population, and the economy is growing faster than anyplace. And if we aren’t here interacting and learning from you, and understanding the culture of the region, then we’ll be left behind. We’ll miss an opportunity. And I don’t want to that to happen.”
Again, that’s Obama in his own words. He LITERALLY said, “we haven’t always had to know about other parts of the world” (which is COMPLETE BS) because “sometimes you can feel lazy and think we’re so big we don’t have to really know anything about other people.”
Yet Snopes swears that he didn’t outright SAY that Americans are lazy and self-absorbed. He merely inferred. BIG difference.
The context shows that Obama did not accuse Americans of anything, much less being lazy, isolated, and ignorant. To be sure, he did say: “…sometimes you can feel lazy and think we’re so big we don’t need to know anything about other people.” But to call that an “accusation” is a misrepresentation. In context, it was a folksy way of stating a plain fact: When you’re a superpower it’s all too easy to rest on one’s laurels and pass up opportunities to engage with other countries — to one’s own detriment.
How on earth is that a misrepresentation? He flat-out suggested that Americans are too lazy, self-absorbed and culturally ignorant to care about the environment or the struggles of those in other parts of the world. Snopes is attempting to soften his words by explaining to us lowly peasants that Obama was simply “stating a plain fact” in a “folksy way.”
Oh. You didn’t see it that way? Bummer.
“There needs to be more engagement between the U.S. and Southeast Asia” would be a fair summary of President Obama’s overall message to these potential leaders of their respective nations. One need not agree with that message, but in the interests of honest debate one ought not to misrepresent it, either.
There’s no misrepresentation. The fact is, Obama went to yet another foreign country and insulted the American people once again. Nowhere in Snopes’ entire rebuttal did they actually debunk the claim. Snopes didn’t offer anything. They used this opportunity to explain what they think Obama REALLY meant. You just interpreted his remarks wrong, loser.
There’s no telling how far Snopes will go to defend the Apologizer-in-Chief.