Steyn on 'Obama's History Lesson'

Leave it to Mark Steyn to deliver some telling blows to Barack Obama's ignorance of history, on full display during his energy speech in Cleveland earlier this week.

We covered his Rutherford Hayes gaffe about the telephone. But the president also sneered at several other people whose statements he either took out of context, or didn't know that they were made up:

Let me tell you something. If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail - [Laughter] - they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society. [Laughter.] They would not have believed that the world was round. [Applause.] We've heard these folks in the past. They probably would have agreed with one of the pioneers of the radio who said, "Television won't last. It's a flash in the pan." [Laughter.] One of Henry Ford's advisers was quoted as saying, "The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a fad." [Laughter.]

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?" [Laughter.] That's why he's not on Mount Rushmore -- [laughter and applause] -- because he's looking backwards. He's not looking forwards. [Applause.] He's explaining why we can't do something, instead of why we can do something.

Steyn lists the president's errors - and they're doozies:

The TV as "flash in the pan" line was given by Mary Sommerville, a woman who developed curriculum in the UK using innovative radio broadcasts. By the 1970's, her ideas had been adopted by schools around the world.

The "horse is here to stay" line is attributed to a Michigan man, George Peck, who, despite losing the use of one arm as a boy, built the largest dry goods business in the state, was president of the Edison company, and actually set Henry Ford up in a shop in Detroit to build his "horseless carriages."

And of course, Obama's grade school notion that everyone believed the world was flat in Columbus' time parodies itself.


So let's see. The president sneers at the ignorance of 15th-century Spaniards, when in fact he is the one entirely ignorant of them. A man who has enjoyed a million dollars of elite education yet has never created a dime of wealth in his life sneers at a crippled farm boy with an eighth-grade schooling who establishes a successful business and introduces electrical distribution across Michigan all the way up to Sault Ste. Marie. A man who sneers at one of the pioneering women in broadcasting, a lady who brought the voices of T. S. Eliot, G. K. Chesterton, and others into the farthest-flung classrooms and would surely have rejected Obama's own dismal speech as being too obviously reliant on "Half-a-Dozen Surefire Cheap Cracks for Lazy Public Speakers." A man whose own budget officials predict the collapse of the entire U.S. economy by 2027 sneers at a solvent predecessor for being insufficiently "forward-looking."

A great nation needs successful self-made businessmen like George Peck, and purveyors of scholarly excellence like Mary Somerville. It's not clear why it needs a smug over-credentialed President Solyndra to recycle Crowd-Pleasing for Dummies as a keynote address.

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus, they all laughed at Edison . . .  How does that song continue? "They laughed at me . . . "

At Prince George's Community College they didn't. But history will, and they will laugh at us for ever taking him seriously.

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