Friday, August 20, 2010

Greatest Americans

Right Wing News, a blog run by John Hawkins, surveyed several dozen conservative-leaning bloggers for the purpose of compiling a list of the twenty greatest people in American history. I didn't have much time to think about my nominees, and I'm sure I missed some who deserve to be included. I'm also quite sure that there are many great people whose work is unknown to most of us, especially to me, and whom, if we knew what they accomplished, we'd certainly want added to the roll.

I also resisted the temptation to list some currently living greats (David Petraeus, Bill Gates, Billy Graham) and limited myself only to those who've passed on. Here are my selections in approximate chronological order:

Jonathan Edwards

George Washington

James Madison

Alexander Hamilton

Thomas Jefferson

Lewis and Clark

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Abraham Lincoln

Thomas Edison

Alexander Graham Bell

Willis Carrier

The Wright Brothers

Teddy Roosevelt

Dwight Eisenhower

Jonas Salk

Martin Luther King

Ronald Reagan

William F. Buckley

Who did I miss?

To see the combined results of the survey go here.



I was in Paris last week and while my wife and daughter visited shops along the cobblestoned streets in Montmartre, I amused myself by watching a guy running a variation of a shell game on the top of a cardboard box. He had three black disks, each about the size of a CD, one of which had a large white spot on the bottom. He laid the disks out on the box and quickly and deftly moved them around, challenging onlookers to pick out the disk with the white spot. Of course it cost twenty Euros to play, and most players lost. They were certain they knew where the marked disk had wound up but they were wrong. Even so, they kept on trying, certain that they could pick out the devilishly elusive white disk.

Running the shell game was illegal. Whenever the police got near an accomplice would yell out and he would grab his disks and run. Even so, I couldn't help admire the skill and dexterity with which he fleeced his patrons.

I was reminded of this "flim-flam" man as I read Pete Spiliakos at No Left Turns who suggests that Mr. Obama is himself just that sort of a trickster. Like my admiration for the Parisian, Spiliakos can't help but marvel at President Obama's genial mendacity and the ease with which he delivers himself of the most outrageous falsehoods. His power to persuade (and mislead), Mr. Spiliakos avers, is not to be underestimated:

I got to watch some of Obama's town hall thing today (you could probably find it on YouTube or something) and it reminded me why he is such a canny opponent. Watching and listening to him is a strange and frustrating experience. I get frustrated by his persistent intellectual dishonesty, but can't help but be impressed at his skill.

Obama was utterly deceptive about how the introduction of private accounts into Social Security would work. He seemed to indicate that private accounts would involve older workers shifting all the money that would otherwise have gone to their Social Security benefits to the market. He had some vague easy answers ("tweaks") about how Social Security could be saved and threw in a reference to a commission to give himself some third party validation.

He was even worse on Medicare. He repeated the amazing stupendous lie about how Obamacare extended the life of Medicare when Obamacare actually took hundreds of billions of dollars out of Medicare to pay for a new entitlement. He was smart to use expert third party validation (from the Medicare actuaries who are required to credit the cuts as extending the life of Medicare because of arcane budget rules) so as to show how post partisan and nonideological he is. If you didn't know about the CBO's commentary on this practice (and most people don't), Obama sounded like the most reasonable guy in the world and not a refugee from Enron's accounting department.

The difference, of course, between Mr. Obama and the Parisian sleight-of-hand artist is that although the shell game was an inevitable loser for those suckered into playing, the man running it was doing nothing dishonest. He didn't lie or surreptitiously remove the white disk from the board. He simply moved the disks around so fast that the eye couldn't follow them. The deception was visual. With Mr. Obama, though, things seem to be, at least to Mr. Spiliakos, regrettably otherwise.

Read the rest of Spiliakos' piece here.