Obamateurism of the Day

Once again, Barack Obama gave a prepared speech … and once again, he failed to fact-check it first. While extolling the virtues of immigration, the President told a Texas audience that we’d be surprised to find out how immigrants have shaped American lives.  Why, just note who founded some of the leading technology firms:

Look at Intel and Google and Yahoo and eBay – these are great American companies that have created countless jobs and helped us lead the world in high-tech industries.  Every one was founded by an immigrant.  We don’t want the next Intel or Google to be created in China or India.  We want those companies and jobs to take root in America.

As reader Joe C points out, Obama might be surprised, too — if he bothered to look for himself.  Intel was founded by Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce in 1968, neither of whom was an immigrant … unless Obama thinks San Francisco and Burlington, Iowa are in foreign countries.  (Some conservatives might be tempted to give Obama the benefit of the doubt on San Francisco.)  In fact, Noyce is descended from passengers on the Mayflower, which is about as non-immigrant as one gets without being a Native American.

As for the other firms on the list, Obama comes closer, but still doesn’t quite get it right.  Google was co-founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin; Page was born in East Lansing, Michigan, although Brin was born in Russia.  Yahoo was co-founded by Jerry Yang (China) and David Filo (Wisconsin).  eBay was co-founded by Pierre Omidyar (France) and Michael Dean Johnson (US).  Put together, the firms had more American founders than immigrants.

Finally, of course, even the immigrants all had one thing in common — they emigrated to the US legally.  They came to this country rather than China precisely because they could exercise their entrepreneurial spirit and find investors without kowtowing to an authoritarian ruling class of the kind found in China.  They didn’t enter illegally and then demand amnesty for breaking the law.  No one opposes legal immigration.

Does anyone do research at the White House?

Update: My friend Jeff Jacoby points out that Intel credits Andy Grove, a Hungarian immigrant, with participation in its founding.  Gordon Moore, however, calls him “employee number four” in this interview.  It should also be remembered that Intel began as NM Electronics, for Noyce Moore — not NMG Electronics.  In the interview, Moore recalls how he and Noyce teamed up to create the company.  Grove, while obviously critical to the firm’s success, did not “found” Intel.  PBS also credits only Noyce and Moore.

Update II: After noting that Intel’s site lists Moore and Noyce as the founders, Ben Smith at Politico reports that Intel’s spokesperson responded that the company considers Grove a “co-founder.”

Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.

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