No, President Obama Didn't "Call Americans Lazy"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 16 2011 4:21 PM

No, President Obama Didn't "Call Americans Lazy"

Rick Perry puts out a new ad that's supposed to show how good he is at taking on Barack Obama. I think it's a little weird that Perry is somehow looking a TV while standing outside, but whatever, let's allow it.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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Okay, one problem. The clip that begins the ad is taken completely out of context. It's from a Q&A at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. The question, and the answer, were about the government's role in making America a more attractive place to invest, not about the relative get-up-and-go of Americans.

QUESTION: I think one related question, looking at the world from the Chinese side, is what they would characterize as impediments to investment in the United States. And so that discussion I'm sure will be part of whatever dialogue you have. And so how are you thinking about that?
OBAMA: Well, this is an issue, generally. I think it's important to remember that the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world. And there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity -- our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture.
But we've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We've kind of taken for granted -- well, people will want to come here and we aren't out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America. And so one of things that my administration has done is set up something called SelectUSA that organizes all the government agencies to work with state and local governments where they're seeking assistance from us, to go out there and make it easier for foreign investors to build a plant in the United States and put outstanding U.S. workers back to work in the United States of America.

If you want to psychoanalyze the president -- and who doesn't? -- you can say that the very fact that he said "lazy" reveals that he has a deep-seated hatred of Americans. (Keith Koffler has a pretty good run down of the things Obama has said that form this critique.) A Pro-American president might have taken that question and talked about trade deals without saying the governemnt had been slow to act on them. People use words for certain reasons. But the "lazy" people in this reference are bureaucrats, not average Americans.

Oh, it doesn't matter. I expect this to stay in the "Obama reveals his true self!" hall of fame with the "American exceptionalism" video.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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