Very interesting birthdays today. A very long time ago I once had a very vitriolic but characteristically nonsensical (on my part) argument with my father about who had a greater impact on history, Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein. I knew what my father wanted me to say -- he was an engineer, so he would have believed (correctly, I might add) that Newton was greater, because his fundamental work on physics had a much greater practical application, while Einstein's work on space, time and relativity was more theoretical. I refused to make an argument for Einstein, however, preferring, in the fashion of the Ivy League pseudo-intellectual that I was at the time, to argue that such questions of who was "greater" were illegitimate in themselves, that such distinctions were unsophisticated, or some such nonsense. (A position not unlike the current "No Labels" impulse in politics, which presumes that not believing in anything strongly is somehow more sophisticated or intelligent.) Anyway, I managed to single-handedly (or single-mindedly) ruin a perfectly good family dinner.
Isaac Newton was born today in 1643.
It's also Dan Quayle's 63rd birthday. I have always thought he got a raw deal and got unfairly stigmatized as "stupid" when he was Vice President.* That's what the liberal media does to attractive young conservatives. As of 1992, Quayle had been a Congressman for four years, a Senator for eight years, and Vice President for four years, at a time when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Bush I administration won the first Gulf War. In other words, he would have been spectacularly well-qualified to be President, and I can't help thinking that, had things gone differently, he might have made a good one. But sometimes those boats sail, and there's not much you can do about it. According to this website, Quayle is now Chairman of Global Operations for Cerberus Capital Management, a $16 billion private investment bank. And, his son Ben Quayle has just been elected to Congress. So maybe he's getting a bit of the last laugh.
Finally, also born today, in 1896, was the Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, who famously said, in talking about government spending, "a billion here, a billion there.... pretty soon you're talking about real money." Wonder what he'd say today when the federal debt just passed $14 trillion? The sky is falling, and Senator Dirksen is no doubt spinning in his grave.
* The supposed stupidity of Quayle stems largely from the famous misspelling "potatoe" incident. Here is an article that tries to set the record straight on the incident. Alas, too late.