The one, the only, Rutherford B. Hayes!
Speaking about the need to develop new sources of American energy in Largo, Md., Obama used our 19th president as a failure of forward-thinking leadership.
“One of my predecessors, President Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone: ‘It’s a great invention but who would ever want to use one?'” Obama said. “That’s why he’s not on Mt. Rushmore.”
“He’s looking backwards, he’s not looking forward. He’s explaining why we can’t do something instead of why we can do something,” Obama said. “The point is there will always be cynics and naysayers.”
Okay, I can see the point he was trying to make –“Reactionary Republicans, far-sighted Democrats”– but I think the message will be somewhat lost amongst all the people scratching their heads and saying “Who?” Hayes is a bit obscure… (1)
But hearing this president call anyone “backward-looking” and implying they’re reactionary is a bit rich. I mean, who’s the guy who revived the failed Keynesian policies of the New Deal and the Great Society? Which president said technological advances caused unemployment? And, remind me here, I’m a bit stuck. Just which among our 44 presidents was obsessed with the national security problems of 30 years before his time, from nations that no longer exist?
President Hayes may not have seen the worth of the telephone, Mr. President, but at least he did no great harm to his country.
Can you say as much?
(1) Hayes is most known for the Compromise of 1877, the deal that allowed him to assume the presidency after a very close, hotly disputed election. (And, previewing 2000, Florida’s electoral votes were at the center of it.) He’s also the president who ended the last vestiges of Reconstruction, mostly because the Democrat-controlled House refused to fund the needed expenditures.
UPDATE: Just beautiful. The lefty Talking Points Memo corrects Obama about his “backward-looking” predecessor:
But Nan Card, curator of manuscripts at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Ohio, told TPM that the nation’s 19th president was being unfairly tagged as a Luddite.
“He really was the opposite,” she said. “He had the first telephone in the White House. He also had the first typewriter in the White House. Thomas Edison came to the White House as well and displayed the phonograph. Photographing people who came to the White House and visited at dinners and receptions was also very important to him.”
While often cited, Card said Obama’s cited quote had never been confirmed by contemporary sources and is likely apocryphal. A contemporary newspaper account of his first experience with telephone in 1877 from the Providence Journal records a smiling Hayes repeatedly responding to the voice on the other line with the phrase, “That is wonderful.” You can read the full story here.
“He was pretty technology-oriented for the time,” Card said. “Between the telephone, the telegraph, the phonograph and photography, I think he was pretty much on the cutting edge.”
Be sure to read the rest, including the comments section where the Obamabots start whining like babies. And enjoy. (h/t Moe Lane)
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)