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Don't Know Much About History

9:51 AM, May 17, 2008 • By DEAN BARNETT
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Barack Obama continued to display his surprisingly flimsy grasp of American history yesterday. "This whole notion of not talking to people," began the longtime community organizer. "It didn't hold in the '60s, it didn't hold in the '70s ... When Kennedy met with (Soviet leader Nikita) Khrushchev, we were on the brink of nuclear war."

There's only one problem with this analysis - Khrushchev and Kennedy met in the first months of Kennedy's term. The Cuban Missile Crisis didn't happen until 16 months later. Furthermore, if we really want to dig into the history, many historians believe that the Vienna Summit between the two leaders did much to trigger the Cuban Missile Crisis. Khrushchev, relying on the Bay of Pigs fiasco and what he later saw at Vienna, determined that his American counterpart was a weak sister who could be bullied.

Since Obama obviously knows nothing about the Vienna Summit, he surely doesn't know that in some circles it's viewed as a cautionary tale regarding the inherent risks of diplomacy with malevolent regimes (or "talking to people" as Obama prefers to think of such activities). Besides, Kennedy at Vienna was quite frankly a much tougher and more hard-headed leader than one can imagine Obama being. At one point, Kennedy responded to Khrushchev's blustering by declaring, "Then, Mr. Chairman, there will be a war. It will be a cold, long winter."

More on point, what are we to make of Obama's ignorance regarding relevant historical events? Mind you, these are historical events that he chooses to talk about. I realize the senator is the victim of an Ivy League education, but he's had decades to repair that damage.

Truth be told, in yesterday's comments, Obama showed trademark characteristics of a callow, young Ivy League grad - he thinks he knows more than he does, and has the audacity to lecture others when he doesn't know what he's talking about. Obama seems perversely intent on transporting an old adage regarding Harvard over to the Crimson's law school: "You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can't tell him much."

A few exit questions for you to mull:

1) Seriously, Obama's a bright guy - how is it possible that he doesn't know such basic facts of American history?

2) Is there any chance Obama really isn't so ignorant but instead misrepresents historical events to better suit his political arguments? (I doubt it, but I figured I'd put it out there.)

3) Every time Obama opens his mouth, there's a chance he'll let loose a whopper like yesterday's. Will Obama say something so foolish before this campaign's end that it will dwarf all previous political blunders?

HT: Hugh Hewitt