There have always been folks like that. 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.
— President Obama
Excerpt from a Speech on Energy
Prince George‘s Community College in Largo, Maryland
March 15, 2012
Well, President Obama’s characterization of the 19th President of the United States as a Luddite couldn’t have been further from the truth. According to Nancy Kleinhenz of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio, Hayes “was very technologically savvy.” Kleinhenz went on to say, “He was a person that was very avant-garde, not only in his acceptance of technology but in every aspect of his life. His attitudes were opposite to many respects of what was standard for a man of his time.” Not only was Hayes the first President to use a telephone in the White House, he was also the first Commander-in-Chief to use a typewriter, a phonograph and even recorded his voice on Thomas Edison’s gramophone. While there were certainly people in the 1870s who looked backwards with regard to these innovations, President Hayes wasn’t amongst them.
When I first read that President Obama had made this gaffe, my first thought was that he don’t know much about history. Obama certainly don’t know much about geography as evidenced by his claim during the 2008 campaign that he had visited “57 states with one to go.” More recently, during the APEC summit in Hawaii last November, President Obama spoke about meeting world leaders “here in Asia” despite standing in the state in which he was born. President Obama might not claim to be an A student, although it would be nice to see those academic transcripts from Occidental College.
My second thought was that President Obama has his agenda to advance and neither knew nor cared if President Hayes had actually made those remarks. The same could be said for Obama’s speechwriters. If besmirching a predecessor is what it takes for the Obama Administration to impose its policies, then so be it. After all, why let the facts get in the way of an applause line? It is de rigueur for the Obama Administration to take cheap shots at Republican Presidents regardless of the century in which they served.
My third thought concerns President Obama’s lofty opinion of himself. President Obama claimed President Hayes isn’t on Mount Rushmore because he looked backwards instead of forwards. I think it is fairly safe to say that President Obama fancies himself a forward-thinking person. I also think it is fairly safe to say that President Obama also thinks his face should be added to Mount Rushmore regardless of whether he is re-elected in November. His supporters no doubt believe billions in federal funds should be allocated to carve out a spot to the left of George Washington, be it Newsweek editor Evan Thomas, who in June 2009 likened him to the Almighty. Surely filmmaker Davis Guggenheim would second Thomas’s motion. After all, Guggenheim struggles to find any fault with The Anointed One save for having “too many accomplishments.” Is it any wonder that Team Obama tapped Guggenheim to make a campaign film?
Yet come to think of it, President Obama might not want a spot on Rushmore. That would mean sharing the spotlight with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. It would mean someone would have to dress up as Obama to race during the fourth inning of every Washington Nationals home game, all but guaranteeing Teddy Roosevelt never wins a race after being knee capped by union thugs. Of course, Obama would have to lose a race now and again, even if Eric Holder threatened to launch a federal investigation. Nah, President Obama would prefer a monument all to himself. But it would have to be really big, because not even the Grand Canyon could contain his ego.
So how do we best pay tribute to the 44th President? It would have to be something both manmade and interactive like an elaborate piece of conceptual art. The entrance is surrounded by Greek columns that are about to go under at any moment. It is a guarded by a mechanical white elephant that bows and apologizes. The white elephant overlooks a moat full of algae and alligators. The roof is covered with half a billion dollars worth of unsold solar panels. The solar panels cover a garage full of Chevy Volts that won’t start.
At the very rear of the garage there is a flight of stairs that you are mandated to run up. You arrive at a podium and in front of you there is a streaming video of adoring fans, many of whom begin to faint. Teleprompters can be found on either side of the video screen. A set of buttons on the podium instructs you to choose amongst Obama speeches, including his address to the 2004 DNC, his 2009 inauguration address, and even his speech that ridiculed President Hayes.
You then pick a speech and recite it as if you were playing Guitar Hero. However, be very careful to speak with the correct cadence. Because if you don’t drop your g’s when addressing the Congressional Black Caucus, you fall through a trap door and land hard in an uncomfortable chair. When you turn around, you come face to face with a death panel ready to render a pre-determined judgment. I cannot think of a more fitting monument to President Obama.