Redeeming Rutherford B. Hayes

Last week, President Obama made fun of one of his predecessors, Rutherford B. Hayes, who served as president from 1877-1881. In a campaign speech—which is the description of any and all speeches he makes—Obama referred to people who disagree with his energy policies as those who would have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society if they had lived at the time of Columbus. Now, never mind that no one of any knowledge during Columbus’s life span believed the earth was flat; he thought he had a good line, so he used it. Who cares about historical accuracy?

Then he used the former president as one of his foils: “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.”

Well, Mr. President, after that display of erudition, don’t expect to see your face on Mt. Rushmore either.

Here are the facts: Hayes installed the first telephone in the White House, it having been invented only the year before he took office. That’s hardly the picture of someone who is dragging his feet and looking backwards, is it? He also invited Thomas Edison to the White House to demonstrate the phonograph. Flat Earth Society member? Really?

Some excellent responses to Obama’s foolish comments have been making the rounds. Here’s a montage, sort of, that I’m particularly fond of:

Then there are his “advanced, forward-thinking” energy policies. Forget oil, right? Who needs that? He has a better idea.

His promotion of “new” cars has been a real spectacle as well:

It’s not that I don’t believe in researching into alternatives, but government can’t make it happen by decree. The market will drive [pardon the pun] this development. Get the government out of the way and we might be surprised at the inventiveness that will rise to the surface.

In the meantime, Mr. President, find some new researchers and writers for your speeches. The ones you have are pretty pathetic.