Ukraine

Obama Goes on a Brief, Factually Inaccurate Rant About Russia

|

poniblog foter

Tensions are high between the U.S. and Russia, and President Barack Obama didn't do anything to ease that this weekend by belittling Russia with some questionable claims.

In an interview with The Economist this weekend, Obama shirked any blame for crumbling U.S.-Russian relations and segued into downplaying the other nation's global significance. To back this up he said:

Immigrants aren't rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking.

Not one of these sentences is true. Writing for Forbes, Mark Adomanis, an evenhanded American expert on Russian affairs, points out the "pretty startling amount of factual inaccuracy." He debunks them in turn:

One of the first things that anyone notices when they are in Moscow is the enormous number of immigrants from Central Asia. Probably the single most noteworthy and inescapable feature of modern Russian life is the prevalence of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who have already rushed to Moscow "in search of opportunity." It's impossible to miss them.

This is corroborated by both official Russian government statistics and the work of its domestic political opponents.

With a dollop of snark, Adomanis explains that "life expectancy… isn't a subject of conjuncture or obscure philosophical inquiry, it is a number that is very easily found on the public-facing website of the Russian state statistics service." And again, Obama is wrong:

In 2013, the average male life expectancy in Russia was a little bit above 65 (technically it was 65.14). When Obama says that life expectancy is "around 60? he's off by about 8 percent. With a similar margin of error we could say that Barack Obama is the 41st president of the United States, that he won 47 percent of the vote in the 2012 presidential election, and that he was born in 1957. Eight percent is a margin of error that people rarely feel confident using, because it very quickly makes you sound rather ill-informed and ignorant.

Regarding the population, Adomanis suggests that "US political elite almost always make huge mistakes when talking about it," as "Russia's population is not shrinking, it is growing." And it has been every year since 2009.

It's bizarre that Obama criticized Russia on these fronts when there's plenty of legitimate issues – like Moscow's crackdown on civil rights, the pro-Western political opposition, and independent media – that he could have addressed instead.

These, of course, don't have much bearing on the war Russia is waging against Ukrainian sovereignty or the mass killing of civilians on a Malaysian plane, but whether it's due to a lazy team of fact-checkers or deliberate rah-rah nationalism to boost the U.S. by comparison, dubious talking points don't help the Obama administration resolve the current crises. Hearing the president say "Russia doesn't make anything" will only inflame anti-American sentiment among Russian civilians, thereby reinforcing Putin's own ballooning cushion of popular support. And, there's need for healthy debate about the U.S.'s actions against the Kremlin throughout this war, but by spouting some easily-debunked information, Obama effectively invites skepticism of the accuracy of other White House claims about Russia. 

Advertisement

NEXT: Don't Freak Out About Ebola Coming to America

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The repeated hammering on “8%” made me laugh.

    1. Did he get smacked around this weekend? I haven’t been around in a while and I always love a good shriek beat down.

  2. Eight percent!!11!11!one!

  3. I thought he said they had 57 states.

    1. That’s more than 8%. So he’s improving.

  4. Obama is a moran.

  5. Have they checked the teleprompter…..could be a simple malfunction.

    1. It’s just a few typos. Give the guy a break everybody.

      1. It’s just a few typos speakos

  6. Obama shriked any blame

    FIFY

    1. NEW MEME ALERT!

    1. I lol’ed

      A friend and I play a game called Who Would you Rather have Sex With?

      Perfect material.

      1. You should play the game Who Would Have Sex with You?

  7. Makes you think that he’s not really a liar, he’s just really, really dumb.

    1. He’s a really, really dumb liar.

  8. “…but by spouting some easily-debunked information, Obama effectively invites skepticism of the accuracy of other White House claims about Russia.”

    In the above, strike “Russia”, replace it with “anything”.

    1. It’s like he’s just phoning it in. Please tell me he’s just given up and is phoning it in. This sort of incompetence can’t be explained any other way right? There’s no way the false god of democracy could ever provide us with someone so categorically stupid.

      1. don’t blame the god of democracy, blame your fellow Americans who foisted the duffer-in-chief on the nation. And no, he’s not stupid; he is evil.

    2. Obama’s claims about his success in the US economy during the interview are equally dubious.

      Were it not for the shale oil revolution — something Obama had nothing to do with and which most of his supporters actively oppose — the US economy would be markedly worse off.

  9. “We misinformed some folks”

    1. “Some folks were misinformed”

      1. “Some folks found themselves misinformed….by comments that the heard.”

    2. He should have prefaced his statement with his trademark, “There are those who say”.

      He’d have thrown everybody off by setting up a straw man, and then agreeing with it.

      1. let me be clear, I reject the (argument that no one is making)…

  10. OT

    found this piece on equal pay funny but not for the reason the author would appreciate…

    The top five woman left standing walked away with the same cash prize as their male counterparts — not 23 percent less. It doesn’t matter if the weight or time is different between sexes.

    If one of the fastest growing sports in America can apply the concept of equal pay for equal effort, we should be able to do the same in the world of work.

    Was the effort different or equal?

    What matters to a franchise owner is revenue stream. Specifically, the male:female ratio and not alienating half your paying customers. And sex sells, IOW running off the scantily-clad half of your customer base is going to lose you customers on the other half.

    1. Out in the real world, effort counts for a lot less than results.

  11. Why did the the American people elect a child to lead them?

    1. were they given a choice?

  12. “factually inaccurate” = lies.

    1. In this case, rather than intentionally saying something he knew not to be true, he was probably just ignorant.

  13. You know who else gave rants about Russia?

    1. Patton?

    2. General Jack Ripper?

    3. Joe McCarthy!

    4. Shania Twain?

    5. Yakov Smirnoff?

      1. I thought Russia gave a rant about him.

    6. Wait…Mitt Romney?

    7. Sting?

      1. Lennon?

    8. Senior Master Sergeant Hans Georg Schultz?

  14. Oh, and props for finally calling Russia’s war against Ukraine what it is.

  15. Can’t wait for the WaPo factchecker and Polifact to get on this. But more likely they will be focusing on Ted Nugent’s latest comments.

  16. “Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking.”

    All lies?

    Obama is basically a troll.

    He’s like Tony or Tulpa.

    Yeah, Obama is a troll, alright?

    1. Couldn’t you just have yelled “Edward Snowden” at him when he said this? Pretty much destroys all three arguments with 2 words.

      1) Snowden rushed to Moscow for the opportunity to not being droned.
      2) A life expectancy of 60 in Russia is a lot higher for Snowden than it would have been back in the States
      3) I’m sure that Snowden is the just the vanguard of all the other whistleblowers who are fleeing the most transparent administration in history.

  17. “Russia’s war on Ukrainian Sovereignty”???Please, since when do libertarians care more about sovereignty than about self rule, devolution of power, etc. What about the overthrow of a democratically elected government by neo nazis who are bent on reliving WWII? What about the massacre in Odessa by this same nazis calling Russian sympathizers beetles? How about all the anti war revolts occurring in WESTERN Ukraine, as village after village is opposing mobilization, burning government notices of conscription, chanting “No Afghanistan in Ukraine”? Give me a break!

  18. “Russia’s war on Ukrainian Sovereignty”???Please, since when do libertarians care more about sovereignty than about self rule, devolution of power, etc. What about the overthrow of a democratically elected government by neo nazis who are bent on reliving WWII? What about the massacre in Odessa by this same nazis calling Russian sympathizers beetles? How about all the anti war revolts occurring in WESTERN Ukraine, as village after village is opposing mobilization, burning government notices of conscription, chanting “No Afghanistan in Ukraine”? Give me a break!

    1. Please go back to LewRockwell.com and take your fellow fake libertarians with you.

      1. “Fake Libertarian” because he questions the official narrative? You probably would have been saying the same BS you are now to people questioning whether there were actually WMD’s in Iraq. Statist.

  19. Please, since when do libertarians care more about sovereignty than about self rule, devolution of power, etc.

    Well, self-rule, devolution of power, and all that happen within the context of sovereignty, which acts to compartmentalize failures in the state system. Extending the Russian state into Ukraine is hardly a triumph of these principles, you know, as it represents a failure of compartmentalization of the massively dysfunctional Russian state.

    Invasions by foreign nations and the creation of puppet governments aren’t really consistent with self-rule, devolution, etc. That’s the bit that libertarians might get a tad upset with. Pro-Russian apologists are likely to be more, err, selective, in their application of these principles.

  20. Sounds like one heck of a deal to me man.

    http://www.AnonWorld.tk

  21. I can’t get that link regarding Russia’s population growth since 2009 to work because my browser is a POS i.e. anything but Chrome. Is that population growth driven by immigration? Is the source a little more credible that the one used to back up the claim that Russia’s life expectancy is 65? Because I don’t trust the Russian state statistics agency.

    1. The link goes to a xls file. Spreadsheet’s text is Russian. You’re not missing much 🙂

    2. See my second link, and this

      All sources tend to show that the overall population direction ‘stopped bleeding’ around 2003-4, and ‘started growing’ in 2012, mostly due to immigration replacing the ‘dying slightly less fast’ russians.

      My personal favorite russian demographic statistics were booze consumption. only topped by Ukranians! #3 isn’t even in the same class of mortally-inebriated. My old boss went to russia to meet the Baltika people and talk about how to grow beer-drinking in russia, and they were repeatedly told, ‘the problem is, Beer is a child’s drink here’.

      People drink beer on the way to work when its hot out! not for social occasions?! Thats what you give the kids.

  22. While i hate to stand up in defense of Obama, megalomaniac ignoramus incompetent that he is =

    while he may have been factually incorrect about all 3 statements when he said them, how far back in time would you have to go before all three points were true?

    ~about 10 years?

    I’m not 100% sure, and am just guessing. Looking at some of mr Adomanis links…

    the life expectancy was holding around 65 from the 1990s to 2003-4 and then started rising to almost 70 now.

    The population was shrinking fairly dramatically though the 1990s and 2000s until very recently, and as he notes, is likely to continue to shrink. Life is short! Drink up.

    Immigration has actually been reasonably high = but that is really a bit of dishonest accounting, since the “immigrants” are largely from countries that *used to be part of the Soviet Empire*.

    its sort of a definitional game which allows for claims of ‘massive immigration’ starting in the 1990s”… when all those countries got re-named! The net effect has been to slightly offset population declines

    in any case, Obama’s an idiot. His critique is about a decade old. However, the observations would have all been generally correct… back then.

    1. A decade ago, people thought we had a pretty good economy, so maybe all his data is 10 years old?

  23. . . . One of the first things that anyone notices when they are in Moscow is the enormous number of immigrants from Central Asia.

    They don’t count – they’re not *Mexicans*.

    1. I was in Moscow 4 years ago and I didn’t see any significant amount of people who looked like they came from central Asia. Moscow is too expensive for people who didn’t grow up there. At the end of the USSR the people got their apartments now worth a lot more than any Russian not being from Moscow can afford.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.