Month: March 2009

Pat Buchanan and the Art of the Selective Quote

Pat Buchanan and the Art of the Selective Quote

A friend asks if there has been a sol­id refu­ta­tion of Pat Buchanan’s book. I’m sure there has been, but could you give me the cita­tion? —W.M.

On pub­li­ca­tion of Pat’s book in 2008 I wrote an edi­to­r­i­al, which I reprise below.

Churchill, Hitler and the Unnec­es­sary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, by Patrick J. Buchanan. New York, Crown, 518 pp., $29.95.

A prob­lem illus­trat­ed by Pat Buchanan’s book is the ram­pant use of selec­tive quotes. No ani­mus toward the author: I have respect for Pat Buchanan and even vot­ed for him in the 1992 New Hamp­shire Pri­ma­ry.…

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“If you will not fight…when you can easily win…”

“If you will not fight…when you can easily win…”

I remem­ber a quip: “When will we fight. When we have no hope.” Can you help me iden­ti­fy the source?

Those words do not track among Churchill’s 15 mil­lion  pub­lished words.. You may be think­ing of:

…if you will not fight for the right when you can eas­i­ly win with­out blood­shed; if you will not fight when your vic­to­ry will be sure and not too cost­ly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a pre­car­i­ous chance of sur­vival. There may even be a worse case.…

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“This great country…mooing dolefully…”

“This great country…mooing dolefully…”

21 March 2009 (Asso­ci­at­ed Press):

Iran’s supreme leader, Aya­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, today dis­missed over­tures to his coun­try from the U.S. pres­i­dent, Barack Oba­ma, say­ing Teheran did not see any change in pol­i­cy under the new U.S. admin­is­tra­tion. “They chant the slo­gan of change but no change is seen in prac­tice,” Khamenei said in his speech, broad­cast live on state tele­vi­sion. In his video mes­sage, Oba­ma said the US want­ed to engage Iran and improve decades of strained relations.

 This remind­ed me of Harold Nicolson’s let­ter to his wife, Vita Sackville-West, 1 March 1938 (Nicol­son Diaries, I, 328):

Win­ston spoke of “this great coun­try nos­ing from door to door like a cow that has lost its calf, moo­ing dole­ful­ly now in Berlin and now in Rome—when all the time the tiger and the alli­ga­tor wait for its undoing.”…

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