The Corner

Rand Paul and the Founders

Andrew Kaczynski and Megan Apper of BuzzFeed have documented that Sen. Rand Paul is a serial offender when it comes to repeating fake quotes from the Founders. Thomas Jefferson, for example, never wrote that a “government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have,” a sentence that sounds pretty modern to my ear. Rand Paul’s response: “Do I need to say in my speech, ‘as many people attribute to Thomas Jefferson, but some people dispute,’ before I give the quote? It’s idiocy, it’s pedantry – it’s ridiculous stuff from partisan hacks.” The publisher of his latest book says, “Sources are properly cited and most are older than those rejecting their veracity.”

No rational person would vote against Paul because of this flap, and nobody expects him to maintain the standards of a scholar. But these are terrible excuses. Of course the fake quotes are older than the sources debunking them! Nobody debunks a fake quote before it’s made up. People who are writing books or giving speeches should take reasonable steps to make sure that what they are saying is true. There are a lot of fake quotes from the Founders (and Lincoln) in wide circulation, so they should be checked before using them. If “many people” attribute a quote to Jefferson but “some people” who have actually looked into the question say he didn’t say it, the quote should not be presented as Jefferson’s. If it’s worth listening to the Founders, it’s worth trying to figure out what they actually said.

(disclosure)

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Elections

The Democrats’ Disastrous CNN LGBT Town Hall

A few days after Donald Trump committed the worst foreign-policy blunder of his presidency by betraying America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria, former vice president Joe Biden, the elder statesman and co-frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary, was on a national stage talking to CNN’s primetime ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith Resigns

Fox News Channel's chief anchor, Shepard Smith, announced on air Friday that he would be resigning from his post after 23 years with the network. “This is my last newscast here,” said Smith. “Recently, I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News. After requesting that I stay, they obliged.” He ... Read More
White House

What Is Impeachment For?

W hat is impeachment for? Seems like a simple question. Constitutionally speaking, it also appears to have a simple answer: to cite and remove from power a president guilty of wrongdoing. Aye, there’s the rub. What sort of wrongdoing warrants removal from power? I’d wager that the flames of ... Read More
NR Webathon

Don’t Let Michael Mann Succeed

I  enjoyed the running joke of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in the great Dickens novel Bleak House, back when I first read it. Little did I know that one day I and the magazine that I love would effectively be caught up in a version of that interminable case, courtesy of a litigious climate scientist with zero regard ... Read More
Elections

Beto Proposes to Oppress Church with State

Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign is within the margin of error of non-existence, but in his failure he has found a purpose: expressing the Democratic id. His latest bid for left-wing love came at a CNN forum on gay rights, where he said that churches that oppose same-sex marriage should have to pay ... Read More