Speaking to students at a Maryland community college, President Obama indulged one of the left's favorite vanities -- the claim to represent "the future." His topic was energy. The president warned against Republicans who want "an energy strategy for the last century that traps us in the past." He compared today's Republicans who are less enthusiastic than he about government subsidies for "wind, solar and biofuels," to the "flat earth society" and to President Rutherford B. Hayes, who supposedly disdained the telephone.
The president had those students chuckling and grinning and feeling smugly superior to benighted Republicans who are so stuck in the past. They always were; look at Hayes!
You'd think that by now Obama might have been chastened about historical claims. He's the one who told us that America invented the automobile and that John F. Kennedy had met with Nikita Khrushchev when we were on the brink of nuclear war. Actually, Kennedy met Khrushchev a year before the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the car was invented in Germany. And far from dismissing the telephone, Hayes embraced the new technology and was the first president to have one installed at the White House.
If Obama had a better command of history, he'd be embarrassed to persist in the forwards/backwards, past/future meme for which he has such a weakness. He'd know, for example, that the story of Lincoln Steffens visiting the Soviet Union in 1919 and proclaiming, "I have seen the future and it works" is remembered now ironically -- for its obtuseness.
Similarly, Democrats were certain during the Cold War that if we didn't want to be on the "wrong side of history," in Sen. Christopher Dodd's words, we'd stop opposing the communist insurgencies.
Now the president would like to persuade us that the fuels of the future are "green" sources such as solar, wind, biomass and so forth. On multiple occasions, the president has warned that other nations are racing ahead of us to develop green technologies and green energy sources. The stimulus bill contained $2.3 billion in tax credits for "green" manufacturers. But Obama wants us to join just as the others are coming to their senses.
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