Churchill. the Kilkenny Cats, and the U.S. Congress

Churchill. the Kilkenny Cats, and the U.S. Congress

Question: “Is Congress like the Kilkenny Cats?”

“The East­ern Kilkennies—may the knot hold,” car­toon by J.S. Pughe on the Rus­so-Japan­ese War, 1904. (Wiki­me­dia Commons)

Updat­ed from “Churchill and the Kilken­ny Cats,” 2012… A Churchillian friend who has writ­ten to her Sen­a­tors writes: “This brief video by Sen­a­tor Rand Paul is a good exam­ple of why the Unit­ed States Con­gress has only a 10% approval rating.

“Who is in charge in the clat­ter­ing train? The video explains why the Con­gresshu­mans are an insult to the Amer­i­can peo­ple.” (Sen­a­tor Paul, on a point of order, was demand­ing extra time to read a 600-page Sen­ate bill sched­uled for an up or down vote in eight hours.)

I’ve giv­en up on the U.S. Sen­ate, myself. (And late­ly, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives with it.) I’m glad some­body is still writ­ing them letters.

Churchill invokes the Cats of Kilkenny

Nat­u­ral­ly there is a Churchill quo­ta­tion which suits the habit­u­al behav­ior of the Unit­ed States Con­gress. (There is a Churchill quo­ta­tion for just about every­thing.) Speak­ing in the House of Com­mons on 18 March 1912, young Win­ston remarked:

We must expect that in a fleet bat­tle between good and effi­cient navies equal­ly matched, tremen­dous dam­age will be rec­i­p­ro­cal­ly inflict­ed…. Indeed, the more we force our­selves to pic­ture the hideous course of a mod­ern naval engage­ment, the more one is inclined to believe that it will resem­ble the con­test between Mamil­ius and Her­minius at the Bat­tle of Lake Regillus, or the still more home­ly con­flict of the Kilken­ny cats. That is a very sat­is­fac­to­ry reflec­tion for the stronger naval Pow­er. It will always pay the stronger naval Pow­er to lose ship for ship in every class.

From Churchill by Him­self, pages 226-27: “The Bat­tle, pos­si­bly myth­i­cal, was described in Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome, which fas­ci­nat­ed WSC as a boy. It was a Roman vic­to­ry, led by Mamil­ius over Her­minius and the Etr­uscans, pos­si­bly between 509 and 493 BC.

The Oxford Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary describes a Kilken­ny cat as ‘one of a pair of cats fabled to have fought until only their tails remained.’ Hence the phrase describes ‘com­bat­ants who fight until they anni­hi­late each oth­er.'” (The cats were from Coun­ty Kilken­ny, Ireland)….

There once were two cats of Kilkenny,
Each thought there was one cat too many.
So they fought and they fit,
And they scratched and they bit
Till, except­ing their nails
And the tips of their tails
Instead of two cats there wer’n’t any.

One thought on “Churchill. the Kilkenny Cats, and the U.S. Congress

  1. This also could describe the cur­rent war between Israel and Hamas.

    Sus­pect there’ll be rather more than a tail left of the Israeli cat…. RL

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