Ed Driscoll

Dissent The Way To Go

Mark Steyn explores the textual stylings of a once and future presidential candidate:

John Kerry announced this week’s John Kerry Iraq Policy of the Week the other day: “Iraqi politicians should be told that they have until May 15 to deal with these intransigent issues and at last put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military.”

With a sulky pout perhaps? With hands on hips and a full flip of the hair?

Did he get that from Churchill? “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, at least until May 15, when I have a windsurfing engagement off Nantucket.”

Actually, no. He got it from Thomas Jefferson. “This is not the first time in American history when patriotism has been distorted to deflect criticism and mislead the nation,” warned Sen. Kerry, placing his courage in the broader historical context. “No wonder Thomas Jefferson himself said: ‘Dissent is the greatest form of patriotism.’ ”

Close enough. According to the Jefferson Library: “There are a number of quotes that we do not find in Thomas Jefferson’s correspondence or other writings; in such cases, Jefferson should not be cited as the source. Among the most common of these spurious Jefferson quotes are: ‘Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.’ ”

Did Kerry’s speechwriter endeavor to point that out? “Hey, boss, diss ain’t a Jefferson quote.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Dissent — a Jefferson quote. Shove one in around the fifth paragraph, but snap it up, will you? I got a fitting for my new even-more-buttock-hugging yellow lycra cycling shorts in 20 minutes.”

It was the Aussie pundit Tim Blair who noted the Thomas Jeffefakery. American commentators were apparently too busy cooing that “Kerry may be reflecting a new boldness on the part of liberals to come out and say what they believe and to reclaim the moral high ground on patriotism” (CBS News) to complain that KERRY LIED!! SCHOLARLY ATTRIBUTION DIED!!! Instead, KERRY MISQUOTED!! MEDIA DOTED!!!

Fortunately, some of us have computers. We can fact check your pompadour.

Update: In his essay, Steyn believes that Nadine Strosser of the ACLU is the source of the bogus Jefferson quote; Betsy Nemark suggests that it was Howard Zinn.

Another Update: Actually, it seems to be Dorothy Hewitt Hutchinson, World War II-era pacifist:

From my research on Lexis and Westlaw, it appears that Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and ACLU head Nadine Strossen are quoting views on dissent, not of Jefferson, but of Dorothy Hewitt Hutchinson, a dissenter and strict pacifist who opposed World War II as immoral, but who made a point of ignoring dissent when it was directed toward herself. To her critics and those who dissented from her views, Hutchinson’s response was not to “budge one inch.”

But I thought dissent was…well, you know.