Commentary Magazine


Topic: Rutherford B. Hayes

Obama, the Self-Proclaimed Visionary

President Obama has received some well-deserved mockery for his factually inaccurate swipes at President Rutherford B. Hayes (yes, really) and Christopher Columbus’s contemporaneous critics. But his comments, made during his campaign-rally-esque energy address yesterday, are also revealing because of what they indicate about Obama himself. From his speech:

“Of course, we’ve heard this kind of thinking before.  If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society.  … There always have been folks who are the naysayers and don’t believe in the future, and don’t believe in trying to do things differently.  One of my predecessors, Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone, ‘It’s a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?’ That’s why he’s not on Mt. Rushmore because he’s looking backwards.  He’s not looking forwards.  He’s explaining why we can’t do something, instead of why we can do something.”

In Obama’s mind, his critics aren’t just wrong, they’re idiots. Obama, in contrast, is a grand visionary of epic capacity – the type of man who in the past would have ended up on Mt. Rushmore or captaining the voyage that led to the discovery of America.

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President Obama has received some well-deserved mockery for his factually inaccurate swipes at President Rutherford B. Hayes (yes, really) and Christopher Columbus’s contemporaneous critics. But his comments, made during his campaign-rally-esque energy address yesterday, are also revealing because of what they indicate about Obama himself. From his speech:

“Of course, we’ve heard this kind of thinking before.  If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society.  … There always have been folks who are the naysayers and don’t believe in the future, and don’t believe in trying to do things differently.  One of my predecessors, Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone, ‘It’s a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?’ That’s why he’s not on Mt. Rushmore because he’s looking backwards.  He’s not looking forwards.  He’s explaining why we can’t do something, instead of why we can do something.”

In Obama’s mind, his critics aren’t just wrong, they’re idiots. Obama, in contrast, is a grand visionary of epic capacity – the type of man who in the past would have ended up on Mt. Rushmore or captaining the voyage that led to the discovery of America.

And yet, where has this amazing foresight been in the years since Obama took office? His advisors claim they underestimated the impact of the economic crisis and miscalculated federal deficit projections. Obama’s attempts to mend the Israeli-Palestinian peace process only drove the two sides further apart, and his administration was caught off guard and woefully unprepared by the Arab Spring.

Then there’s energy policy. There are plenty of blunders to criticize, but let’s focus on a major one: the collapse of Solyndra. Here’s what Obama had to say when ABC News asked whether he regretted pouring over $500 million in taxpayer funds into a now-bankrupt company that he once lauded as the model of his green-jobs program:

“Hindsight is always 20/20,” Obama told “Good Morning America” anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview broadcast online Monday. “It went through the regular review process and people felt that it was a good bet.”

Hindsight may be 20/20, but you’d have to be blind to miss all the warning signs that Solyndra was a dangerous investment.

And this is the person we’re supposed to trust as the brilliant diviner of our energy future? For someone with a track record of placing losing bets, Obama really does put a remarkable amount of stock in his own visionary prowess. Then again, it’s always easier when you’re gambling with somebody else’s money.

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Why Is Obama So Disrespectful of Britain?

The Daily Mail today points out (h/t Instapundit) that Barack Obama, as candidate and president, has not said a single word in a speech regarding the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. That overstates the case a bit, as he did, at least once, use the phrase at a press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he visited Britain in April.

But the Daily Mail is right in general. Obama has been minimal, to say the least, in his treatment of Great Britain. In his speech at West Point last week, he did not mention Britain. This despite the fact that the British have been our staunchest ally in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where the British now have 10,000 soldiers and have suffered 237 killed, more than a hundred this year alone. That’s 15 percent of all deaths in Afghanistan and 25 percent of the number of soldiers the United States has lost there. In other words, Britain has lost more soldiers in Afghanistan, relative to its population, than has the United States. And its contribution to the war effort has been every bit as large relative to its economy.

Obama has not only mostly ignored our British ally, he has positively insulted them.  Hardly had he moved into the Oval Office when he ordered that a bronze bust of Winston Churchill be returned to the British embassy. It had been given to the White House, in a symbolic gesture of solidarity, shortly after 9/11 .

When Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the White House in March, he was denied a joint press conference and a formal dinner, as is standard when world leaders have talks with the president. Brown gave the president a pen holder made from the timbers of HMS Gannet, which had played an active part in suppressing the slave trade in the early 19th century. He also gave him the commissioning papers of HMS Resolute, which had been trapped in arctic ice, abandoned, found by an American whaling vessel, purchased by Congress, and presented to Queen Victoria as a gesture of friendship. In 1880, after the Resolute was broken up, the Queen ordered two magnificent desks made from her timbers. One is in Buckingham Palace. The other was presented to President Rutherford B. Hayes and has been used by almost every president since, including Barack Obama.

Obama gave Brown, not a movie buff, a bunch of classic American films on DVDs that won’t even play on British DVD players.

Although Obama bowed deeply to the King of Saudi Arabia and the Emperor of Japan, when he met Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in April, a hand shake was deemed sufficient.

When Brown came to the United States for the UN General Assembly meeting and the G20 summit in September, Obama refused repeated requests by the British Foreign Office to meet privately with Brown, although he found time to meet with the presidents of Russia and China, and the Japanese prime minister.

Why is the Obama White House treating the British this way? What has it got to gain from deliberate rudeness, such as returning the gift of a bust of the man who in 1940 saved the world — including the United States — from “a new Dark Age, made more sinister and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science”?

Why treat Gordon Brown as though he headed the government of a banana republic rather than the world’s sixth-largest economy and one of the few friendly countries on earth with serious military capabilities?

Like so much of this administration, it seems just gratuitous arrogance.

The Daily Mail today points out (h/t Instapundit) that Barack Obama, as candidate and president, has not said a single word in a speech regarding the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. That overstates the case a bit, as he did, at least once, use the phrase at a press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he visited Britain in April.

But the Daily Mail is right in general. Obama has been minimal, to say the least, in his treatment of Great Britain. In his speech at West Point last week, he did not mention Britain. This despite the fact that the British have been our staunchest ally in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where the British now have 10,000 soldiers and have suffered 237 killed, more than a hundred this year alone. That’s 15 percent of all deaths in Afghanistan and 25 percent of the number of soldiers the United States has lost there. In other words, Britain has lost more soldiers in Afghanistan, relative to its population, than has the United States. And its contribution to the war effort has been every bit as large relative to its economy.

Obama has not only mostly ignored our British ally, he has positively insulted them.  Hardly had he moved into the Oval Office when he ordered that a bronze bust of Winston Churchill be returned to the British embassy. It had been given to the White House, in a symbolic gesture of solidarity, shortly after 9/11 .

When Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the White House in March, he was denied a joint press conference and a formal dinner, as is standard when world leaders have talks with the president. Brown gave the president a pen holder made from the timbers of HMS Gannet, which had played an active part in suppressing the slave trade in the early 19th century. He also gave him the commissioning papers of HMS Resolute, which had been trapped in arctic ice, abandoned, found by an American whaling vessel, purchased by Congress, and presented to Queen Victoria as a gesture of friendship. In 1880, after the Resolute was broken up, the Queen ordered two magnificent desks made from her timbers. One is in Buckingham Palace. The other was presented to President Rutherford B. Hayes and has been used by almost every president since, including Barack Obama.

Obama gave Brown, not a movie buff, a bunch of classic American films on DVDs that won’t even play on British DVD players.

Although Obama bowed deeply to the King of Saudi Arabia and the Emperor of Japan, when he met Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in April, a hand shake was deemed sufficient.

When Brown came to the United States for the UN General Assembly meeting and the G20 summit in September, Obama refused repeated requests by the British Foreign Office to meet privately with Brown, although he found time to meet with the presidents of Russia and China, and the Japanese prime minister.

Why is the Obama White House treating the British this way? What has it got to gain from deliberate rudeness, such as returning the gift of a bust of the man who in 1940 saved the world — including the United States — from “a new Dark Age, made more sinister and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science”?

Why treat Gordon Brown as though he headed the government of a banana republic rather than the world’s sixth-largest economy and one of the few friendly countries on earth with serious military capabilities?

Like so much of this administration, it seems just gratuitous arrogance.

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