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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:48 pm 
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More evidence that President Obama should just try to make his point without the need to trash Republicans in trying to cling to office.

Speaking about the need to develop new sources of American energy in Largo, Md., Obama used our 19th president to illustrate 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. "The point is there will always be cynics and naysayers." ... 17572.html

Now I personally don't expect folks to be carving old Rutherford's image in the rock face of Mt. Rushmore anytime soon either. Nor do I really expect people to be able to call to mind some of the more important parts of his life, times, and administration.

BUT if you are going to use the man as an historic example of "backward looking" status quo conservatism, you just might want to read a book first.

A fatherless self-made man who rose to prominence based on his hard work, intelligence, integrity, and raw courage, Hays was one of the most "forward thinking" men of his times.

As a lawyer in Ohio in the 1850's he pioneered new defense tactics and championed (without pay) the defense of scores of fugitive slaves who had fled to freedom over the Ohio River.

When war came he volunteered and served with conspicuous bravery being wounded five times and rising to the rank of Major General. Toward the close of the war he was nominated to run for Congress but refused to leave the front to campaign. He defeated an incumbent anti-war Democrat nonetheless.

Later as President he was best known as a reformer who took on the old patronage ring of corrupt insiders who skimmed money out of the public treasuries in the notorious "spoils system."

He was also among the "liberal" reform wing concerning Indian Policy (which he took out of the hands of the military); sound public education (without which he thought democracy would be captured by demagogues); prison reform (he helped create separate prisons for both children and the mentally ill who had previously all been dumped in together in a general prison population); and not allowing the public funding of private religious institutions (a position at the time that had much to do with fears of Catholic non-assimilation and fairly drips with irony considering Obama's "forward thinking" conflict with religious institutions).

Mostly he was known as steadfast in the cause of defending Civil Rights. He saw something in the relatively inexperienced and young John Harlan he liked and, after strong opposition, got him on the Supreme Court where he served for the next 34 years.

Justice Harlan is often known as the "Great Dissenter" for his extraordinarily powerful and prescient dissents. Constantly in the minority on the Court, no one fought more consistently for Civil Rights and no one has seen their "losing" dissents more frequently made law later.

Most notably his lone dissent in Plessy v Ferguson (1896) that allowed segregation to remain and go forward. His dissent became the basis of the unanimous Brown decision (1954).

A man of his time he had the sense to understand his own "vision" was not to serve as the prism through which he observered the law or justice. In his dissent he wrote:

The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty.

But in view of the constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved...

If evils will result from the commingling of the two races upon public highways established for the benefit of all, they will be infinitely less than those that will surely come from state legislation regulating the enjoyment of civil rights upon the basis of race. We boast of the freedom enjoyed by our people above all other peoples. But it is difficult to reconcile that boast with a state of the law which, practically, puts the brand of servitude and degradation upon a large class of our fellow-citizens, our equals before the law. The thin disguise of 'equal' accommodations for passengers in railroad coaches will not mislead any one, nor atone for the wrong this day done.

So without the "forward looking" Hayes, it's hard to see the "forward looking" Harlan, without which it's hard to imagine a 2012 that includes a "forward looking" African-American President, - who trashes a good man because he made a joke about the telephone.

Hayes quotes:

"The President of the United States of necessity owes his election to office to the suffrage and zealous labors of a political party, ...but he should strive to be always mindful of the fact that he serves his party best who serves the country best."

"I am not liked as a President by the politicians in office, in the press, or in Congress. But I am content to abide the judgment - the sober second thought - of the people."

"Nothing brings out the lower traits of human nature like office-seeking. Men of good character and impulses are betrayed by it into all sorts of meanness."

"Abolish plutocracy if you would abolish poverty."

"Let every man, every corporation, and especially let every village, town, and city, every county and State, get out of debt and keep out of debt. It is the debtor that is ruined by hard times."

"Wars will remain while human nature remains."

"The progress of society is mainly the improvement in the condition of the workingmen of the world."

"This is a government of the people, by the people and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations."

"The unrestricted competition so commonly advocated does not leave us the survival of the fittest. The unscrupulous succeed best in accumulating wealth."

"One of the tests of the civilization of people is the treatment of its criminals."

“It will be the duty of the Executive, with sufficient appropriations for the purpose, to prosecute unsparingly all who have been engaged in depriving citizens of the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution.”

"Conscience is the authentic voice of God."

And my personal favorite:

I am a radical in thought (and principle) and a conservative in method (and conduct).
Rutherford B. Hayes

Mr. Obama, please read a book next time. Or at least ask the person typing this stuff into the teleprompter to do so.

"As for us, our days of combat are over. Our swords are rust. Our guns will thunder no more. The vultures that once wheeled over our heads must be buried with their prey. Whatever of glory must be won in the council or the closet, never again in the field. I do not repine. We have shared the incommunicable experience of war; we have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to its top."

Oliver Wendell Holmes

PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:04 pm 
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Regardless of Hayes' other insights, I'm not sure if the phone has been a step forward really. Was letter writing so terrible?

(Not being sarcastic.)

THE TIMES are nightfall, look, their light grows less;
The times are winter, watch, a world undone:
They waste, they wither worse; they as they run
Or bring more or more blazon man’s distress.
And I not help. Nor word now of success:
All is from wreck, here, there, to rescue one—
Work which to see scarce so much as begun
Makes welcome death, does dear forgetfulness.
Or what is else? There is your world within.
There rid the dragons, root out there the sin.
Your will is law in that small commonweal…
G.M. Hopkins.

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