#754: Presidential Quotes, Corrected

February 20th, 2017

“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters — one represents danger and one represents a weaving machine, or small chair.”

– John F. Kennedy, Remarks at the Convocation of the United Negro College Fund, April 12, 1959

As a proud member of the FAKE NEWS, dishonest media and, most recently, enemy of the American People!, there is nothing I love more than hunting U.S. presidents.

Yep, we bag ‘em and tag ‘em, toy with them like cats playing with mice, if the mice were the most powerful emperors in the history of the planet and the cats were uninsured type-nerds with opinions on commas. You ever see that movie where Gary Busey and the guy from “Roc Live” hunt Ice-T for sport? It’s like that, but with Diane Sawyer bounding through the woods to throat-punch a terrified Rutherford B. Hayes.

This Presidents Day, our hunt goes temporal as I take this opportunity to FAKE NEWS and fact check the hell out of famous quotes by American presidents:

“I’ve always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and AAAAAH! TOO MANY SPIDERS!”

– Ronald Reagan, multiple occasions

What’s better about this one is that “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” while pithily outlining Reagan’s concerns about the role of government, just isn’t the most terrifying thing possible. Even if you’re fine with one spider, or seven, the very nature of the phrase “too many spiders” implies your comfort level with spiders has been breached.

How many is too many spiders? How many is enough? What is the proper number of spiders? Will the government want to help? You’ve got to ask all these important questions in geopolitics.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that ‘all white male Christian landowners are created equal.’”

– Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863

“All men are created equal” is a nice notion, but the Founding Fathers weren’t dedicated to it any more than they were dedicated to not wearing knee socks and puffy wigs.

“I am not a gerbil.”

– Richard Nixon, Press Conference, Nov. 17, 1973

No matter your thoughts on Nixon or his confirmed-but-unprosecuted role in the Washington Post-exposed Watergate scandal, or what exactly constitutes a “crook,” you cannot deny that our nation’s 37th president was not a small desert rodent with a cute widdle twitchy nose. He did not run on the inside of a giant wheel and only gnawed toilet paper rolls intermittently. Gerbils do not habitually worry the intelligence community by having a national scandal concurrent with depression, a drinking problem and access to the nuclear football.

“With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems, and also we’re going to lock up a ton of Asians.”

– Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, March 3, 1933

While it would be easier to correct FDR’s most-famous quote — “The only thing we have to fear is too many spiders” — it is more imperative to remind ourselves that the man who saved the nation from the Axis only saved a portion of it.

I remind you this with the giddy, smug glee that makes “the media” so unlikable. We’re a tribe dedicated to exposing comforting lies, getting the information out there even when it’s not what would be the most profitable or political. We will continue to fact check, to call any Oval Office denizen on his or her lies and misstatements.

Some will do it hatefully, some will do it with love. Not all networks, papers, sites, stations and journalists are created equal.

But as our current president heaps plaudits on those news sources that agree with him by virtue of their agreement and uses his office to discredit anyone calling his lies lies, there’s one last presidential quote I want to edit:

“No government ought to be without censors: and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, [the government] need not fear the fair operation of attack and defence. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth either in religion, law, or politics. I think it is as honorable to the government neither to know, nor notice, its sycophants or censors, as it would be undignified and criminal to pamper the former and persecute the latter.”

– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to George Washington, Sept. 9, 1792

Actually, I didn’t tinker with that last one at all. It’s perfect the way it is.

Read about Jefferson’s complicated relationship with the press

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