Obama on his opponents: They would have been founding members of the "flat earth society"

In a speech at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Md., a smug President Barack Obama smeared opponents of his energy policies as backward and unscientific in their approach:

“Now, here’s the sad thing. Lately, we have heard a lot of professional politicians, a lot of the folks who were running for a certain office, who shall go unnamed, they’ve been talking down new sources of energy. They dismiss wind power. They dismiss solar power. They make jokes about biofuels. They were against raising fuel standards. I guess they like gas guzzlers. They think that’s good for our future. We’re trying to move towards the future. They want to be stuck in the past!” Obama exclaimed to cheers from the crowd. “If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they probably must have been founding members of the flat earth society. They would not believe that the world was round!”

The president continued on in the same vein, citing U.S. history for further examples of ignorant incredulousness. Some folks didn’t believe TV would take off! One of Henry Ford’s advisers suggested the automobile would be a fad! Rutherford B. Hayes couldn’t understand why anyone would want a telephone! The GOP is just like all of them!

Actually, the president had his facts wrong. On a purely surface level, he needs a history lesson:

But Nan Card, curator of manuscripts at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Ohio, told TPM that the nation’s 19th president was being unfairly tagged as a Luddite.

“He really was the opposite,” she said. “He had the first telephone in the White House. He also had the first typewriter in the White House. Thomas Edison came to the White House as well and displayed the phonograph. Photographing people who came to the White House and visited at dinners and receptions was also very important to him.” …

“He was pretty technology-oriented for the time,” Card said. “Between the telephone, the telegraph, the phonograph and photography, I think he was pretty much on the cutting edge.” …

Obama’s invocation of the “flat earth” theory in the context of Christopher Columbus’ journey across the ocean also contained some dubious history. …

[H]istorians have long contended that the notion Europeans widely believed the Earth was flat, let alone 15th century Spanish scholars, is a myth developed centuries later.”

More importantly, though, the president’s speech betrays his misunderstanding of the nature of the objections to his energy policy. It’s not that the GOP candidates don’t see any potential in wind or solar energy; it’s that they don’t think it’s the role of the government to prop up alternative energy companies with subsidies. Did the federal government pay Henry Ford to develop the automobile? I didn’t think so.

If anything, Obama believes less in the potential of wind and solar companies than free marketeers who say, “Let them compete!”  He must not think the pioneers of wind and solar will ever find a way to contain costs or market their products without the help of the federal government. What’s that doubt about?

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