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August 31, 2015

Obama Climbs Mount Hubris

Renaming Mount McKinley is a job for “the great one.”

Barack Obama burned thousands of gallons of jet fuel on Air Force One as he traveled to Alaska to lecture the nation once again about climate change. Just before he left, and just for good measure, he renamed America’s tallest mountain. First, some history: In 1896, William Dickey, a New Hampshire gold prospector in Alaska, named the peak for William McKinley, who supported the gold standard and had just won the Republican nomination for president. Never mind that the Athabascan people called the mountain Denali for thousands of years prior. The name change wasn’t official, however, until 1917, when Congress designated the surrounding area as a national park. And McKinley’s Ohio roots meant he had an important delegation in Washington telling Alaskans what to call their mountain. The Alaskan delegation to Congress introduced legislation in February to change the name to Denali, but it was doubtful to overcome the opposition of Ohioans. (Ain’t our republic grand?) In 1980, the surrounding national park was renamed Denali, but the mountain kept its name — until Obama said otherwise. In announcing the change, the Obama Interior Department said, “In changing the name from Mount McKinley to Denali, we intend no disrespect to the legacy of President McKinley. We are simply reflecting the desire of most Alaskans to have an authentically Alaskan name for this iconic Alaskan feature.” If only the Obama administration showed such deference to states in more important matters. Perhaps he only wanted to tweak John Boehner one more time. Or perhaps he thought it was his destiny to rename the mountain because Denali is an Athabascan word meaning “the great one.” What’s Athabascan for “narcissism”?

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