November 4, 2010
What President Obama Didn't Learn at Harvard
If President Obama had gone to Harvard Business School, instead of Harvard Law School, he might have learned this amazing lesson about American enterprise. It comes from Jill Jonnes' excellent history, "Eiffel's Tower."
The greatest problem in building the Eiffel's "Tour de Trois Cent Metres" for the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition was the elevators. They would have to work safely and efficiently to handle the massive crowds expected to descend upon the City of Lights. Gustave Eiffel, being French, wanted to choose a French elevator manufacturer. But he was operating against an unforgiving deadline, and only the Yankees had the experience and the proven record.
"Safety, speed and quality were characteristics on which Otis Brothers and Company of New York prided itself, but above all, safety. If an Otis elevator's housing cables broke or stretched out, powerful leaf springs were released, causing the brake shoes to grip the rails, thus bringing the falling car to a gradual halt. All who followed the history of elevators could cite the famous moment in 1854 when firm founder Elisha G. Otis dramatically demonstrated ‘the perfect safety of his elevator by cutting the hoisting rope of a suspended platform on which he himself stood.' As the platform came to a gentle stop, Mr. Otis declared to his astonished audience, ‘All safe, gentlemen!'"
Neither the Eiffel Tower, nor the Empire State Building, nor any of the world's great skyscrapers would have been possible without the Yankee ingenuity and enterprise of Elisha Otis and company. If you and your family ever visit the Eiffel Tower, make it a point to check out the elevators.
President Obama thinks government produces wealth. Worse, he thinks government's role is to "spread the wealth around." Socialism has failed wherever it has been tried.
Tuesday, the American people engaged powerful leaf springs to an administration that was in free-fall. And the genius of the American Founders applied the brakes to President Obama's headlong rush to nationalize industry, finance, education, and health care.
Our country was in grave danger, not because Barack Obama wants to do us harm, but because what he learned in college and law school simply ain't so. The policies he pursued actually caused harm.
Hillary Clinton made it a point to get out of town. She didn't want to be near the wreckage. Her patronizing put-down of the American people was similarly the product of our elite Ivy grad schools. She said we had a petulant "Goldilocks" attitude. Some of us say Obama's policies are too hot. Some say they are too cold. And the impatient electorate is too demanding; we want him to get it just right.
How insulting. How arrogant. But it is typical of the way liberals talk down to Americans. The 2010 election was a powerful wave. It was not the tsunami or the avalanche it was predicted up to be. Some of the best of the Democrats lost and some of the worst of them were returned to office.
Conservatives should heed the wisdom of the young Marco Rubio. He said his party had been given "a second chance." He understands that all power in this Great Republic is on loan.
There should be no talk of permanent majorities or an electoral lock. Both parties have lost their way. By giving Republicans the House and Democrats the Senate, the voters sent a strong message: You answer to us.
I have to think that James Madison must be smiling today. And I can almost envision the ghost of Madison standing next to Elisha Otis on that suspended platform in 1854. "You know, this is the way we designed the American Constitution, too. We have leaf springs -- called elections -- that can apply brakes if the government is falling. The brake is the system of checks and balances."
Let's hope President Obama, spends the next two years of his term a chastened and wiser leader. If not, the American Founders devised a brake for that, too.