Was Obama's 'Intercontinental Railroad' Reference Lifted from Previous Identical NYT Errors?

It's probably not much of a stretch to believe that Barack Obama and his speechwriters frequently peruse the New York Times in print or online.

Their likely affinity for the Times may explain why the President referred to the "intercontinental railroad" in his speech yesterday in Cincinnati near the Brent Spence Bridge:

Now, we used to have the best infrastructure in the world here in America. We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad, the Interstate Highway System.

Of course, "intercontinental" means "between or among continents; involving two or more continents." The railroad to which the President referred was actually the "Transcontinental Railroad."

It turns out that the President's gaffe is one which New York Times writers have committed frequently enough that one can believe that Team Obama picked it up from them, as seen in the results of this Times search on "intercontinental railroad" (in quotes). Four of the five erroneous uses of the term have occurred since Barack Obama took office:

  • In February 2009 at the Economix Blog ("Revenge of the Rust Belt"), Harvard professor Edward L. Glaser wrote: "As the Rust Belt declined, the Sun Belt grew. An intercontinental railroad, the Panama Canal and then the highway system made the West Coast accessible, and people flocked to warmer weather."
  • In June 2010 in an Artsbeat column, Allison Amend, who took pride in being an NPR listener, wrote of "the construction and subsequent development of the intercontinental railroad."
  • In November 2010 ("One Way to Trim Deficit: Cultivate Growth"), Times Economics writer David Leonhardt (who, as an aside, imagined that the manufacturing sector of the economy was in recession in February 2007 when it wasn't) wrote that "Federal science dollars, meanwhile, led to the creation of the intercontinental railroad, the airline industry, the microchip, the personal computer, the Internet and numerous medical breakthroughs." By the way, the "federal science dollars" which Leonhardt says led to the transcontinental railroad came from "high- caliber engineering training programs funded by the United States Army" -- presumably provided by colleges. That's like crediting the government for inventions developed by students benefiting from the GI Bill. Give me a break, David.
  • Finally, in a role reversal, on January 26, 2011 ("After Detour, a Map of America’s Journey"), Matt Bai described the President's State of the Union speech -- "Mr. Obama delivered a narrative of American life that evoked images of Depression-era murals and cold-war newsreels, rather than hammering away at specific laws he had passed or planned to propose. He harked back to sputnik, the Apollo project and the intercontinental railroad." Trouble is, in the actual SOTU speech (text; video), Obama correctly referred to the "transcontinental railroad." In this case, the Times made a correction.

Remember these examples the next time liberal elites at the Times, in academia, or in the Obama administration try to pretend that they are presumptively better than their readers, students, and the governed, respectively.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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