President Obama on Rutherford B. Hayes: “Not a Forward-Thinking Leader”?
posted at 10:28 am on March 18, 2012 by Rovin
Rutherford B. Hayes, a distinguished Civil War hero, a staunch defender of civil rights for southern blacks, and a President that took on his own Republican party to end the corruption of civil service appointees is called “a failure of forward-thinking leadership” by President Obama, (our current “historian” in the White House). From the NY Magazine via Politico:
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.
We thought it was a bit unsporting of Obama to attack President Hayes, who is quite unable to respond. So we called up the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio, where Nan Card, the curator of manuscripts, was plenty willing to correct Obama’s ignorance of White House history. Just as soon as she finished chuckling.
“I’ve heard that before, and no one ever knows where it came from,” Card said of Hayes’s alleged phone remark, “but people just keep repeating it and repeating it, so it’s out there.”
Wait, so Hayes didn’t even say the quote that Obama is mocking him for? “No, no,” Card confirmed.
She then read aloud a newspaper article from June 29, 1877, which describes Hayes’s delight upon first experiencing the magic of the telephone. The Providence Journal story reported that as Hayes listened on the phone, “a gradually increasing smile wreathed his lips and wonder shone in his eyes more and more.” Hayes took the phone from his ear, “looked at it a moment in surprise and remarked, ‘That is wonderful.’”
In fact, Card noted, Hayes was not only the first president to have a telephone in the White House, but he was also the first to use the typewriter, and he had Thomas Edison come to the White House to demonstrate the phonograph. “So I think he was pretty much cutting edge,” Card insisted, “maybe just the opposite of what President Obama had to say there.”
But let’s digress a bit. (Editor’s note: I’m using Wikipedia as a reference here and have edited out some of the “reference links” through-out the text for “easier reading” purposes only. Feel free to read the original text here. Also, with a little research, I found no credible evidence to refute the context of the two following paragraphs):
Hayes’s later attempts to protect the rights of southern blacks were ineffective, as were his attempts to rebuild Republican strength in the South. He did, however, defeat Congress’s efforts to curtail federal power to monitor federal elections. Democrats in Congress passed an army appropriation bill in 1879 with a rider that repealed the Force Acts. Those Acts, passed during Reconstruction, made it a crime to prevent someone from voting because of his race. Hayes was determined to preserve the law protecting black voters, and he vetoed the appropriation. The Democrats did not have enough votes to override the veto, but they passed a new bill with the same rider. Hayes vetoed this as well, and the process was repeated three times more. Finally, Hayes signed an appropriation without the offensive rider, but Congress refused to pass another bill to fund federal marshals, who were vital to the enforcement of the Force Acts. The election laws remained in effect, but the funds to enforce them were curtailed for the time being.
Hayes next attempted to reconcile the social mores of the South with the recently passed civil rights laws by distributing patronage among southern Democrats. “My task was to wipe out the color line, to abolish sectionalism, to end the war and bring peace,” he wrote in his diary. “To do this, I was ready to resort to unusual measures and to risk my own standing and reputation within my party and the country.” All of his efforts were in vain; Hayes failed to convince the South to accept the idea of racial equality and failed to convince Congress to appropriate funds to enforce the civil rights laws. (all emphasis mine)
Now remember, according to our current resident in the White House, the idea of achieving racial equality over 125 years ago WAS NOT “FORWARD THINKING”. Hayes was not only attempting to preserve and protect the rights of black voters, (sometimes at the dismay of his own party), he was battling a DEMOCRATIC PARTY that was determined to repeal these rights, and, (in the end), actually lost the battle because Democrats in control refused to fund the proper enforcement authorities that would have maintained the integrity of the black voter’s rights. President Hayes was not only on the cutting edge of new technology, he could be considered a champion of the first round of civil rights for all Americans. If President Obama had taken the time to review a few of these historical facts, he might have considered President Hayes as a candidate for Mt. Rushmore, instead of using Hayes as a political tool to advance his own ambitions—stupidly.
Update two: Not a big fan of the “tweeter empire” yet, but couldn’t help posting a few tweets via twitchy.com :
#BarackObamasPresidentialFacts Ulysses S. Grant was our first Greek president.
“Purple Hayes” was the first Jim Hendrix song about a president. #BarackObamasPresidentialFacts
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