Mark Steyn kicks off his latest column by quoting George and Ira Gershwin’s “They all laughed at Christopher Columbus” song before noting somebody whom history will really laugh at — and those who couldn’t figure out in 2008 that his bespoke clothes had no emperor inside them:
Christopher Columbus? Once upon a time, your average well-informed high-schooler, never mind the smartest president in history, understood that Columbus was laughed at not because everyone believed the world was round: Educated Europeans of his day accepted that the earth was spherical and had done since Aristotle’s time. They laughed because they thought he was taking the long way round to the East Indies. Which he was.
So let’s see. The president sneers at the ignorance of 15th-century Spaniards, when in fact he is the one entirely ignorant of them. A man who has enjoyed a million dollars of elite education yet has never created a dime of wealth in his life sneers at a crippled farm boy with an eighth-grade schooling who establishes a successful business and introduces electrical distribution across Michigan all the way up to Sault Ste. Marie. A man who sneers at one of the pioneering women in broadcasting, a lady who brought the voices of T. S. Eliot, G. K. Chesterton, and others into the farthest-flung classrooms and would surely have rejected Obama’s own dismal speech as being too obviously reliant on “Half-a-Dozen Surefire Cheap Cracks for Lazy Public Speakers.” A man whose own budget officials predict the collapse of the entire U.S. economy by 2027 sneers at a solvent predecessor for being insufficiently “forward-looking.”
A great nation needs successful self-made businessmen like George Peck, and purveyors of scholarly excellence like Mary Somerville. It’s not clear why it needs a smug over-credentialed President Solyndra to recycle Crowd-Pleasing for Dummies as a keynote address.
They all laughed at Christopher Columbus, they all laughed at Edison . . . How does that song continue? “They laughed at me . . . ”
At Prince George’s Community College they didn’t. But history will, and they will laugh at us for ever taking him seriously.
And something else for history to laugh at. A year after Mr. Obama’s call for a New Civility, and less than two weeks after he invoked his daughters’ names to kick off Flukeaquiddick, as Bryan Preston asks at the Tatler, “How Will Obama Explain His Choice of Entertainment to Sasha and Malia?”