Obama twice called Americans “lazy” Wednesday during a Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) town hall at Souphanouvong University in Laos during his ongoing visit to Asia. The comments are sure to irk conservatives who have previously claimed Obama is being unpatriotic when he criticizes Americans while overseas or at home.
“You know I believe that the United States is and can be a great force for good in the world but because we are such a big country we haven’t always had to know about other parts of the world,” Obama said. “If you are in Laos you need to know about Thailand and China and Cambodia because you are a small country and they are right next door and you need to know who they are. If you are in the United States, sometimes you can feel lazy and think, ‘You know we are so big we don’t have to really know anything about other people.'”
The president again threw out the “lazy” label when describing an overall lack of urgency in Americans’ attitudes toward climate change and the environment.
“Usually, if you see the environment destroyed, it’s not because that’s necessary for development,” Obama said. “It’s usually because we are being lazy, and we’re not being as creative as we could be about how to do it in the smarter, sustainable way.”
Obama’s critics argue that when he alludes to or acknowledges mistakes made by the U.S. while abroad, he weakens the country’s standing in the world. He has also faced backlash for criticizing Americans from within the country’s borders, such as when he warned of Islamaphobia in the wake of the Orlando night club mass shooting in Jun. Critics at the time argued that the warning amounted to a lecture to Americans when his anger should have been directed at terrorists.