Mr. Stern, Mr. Trump, Churchill Quotes and Misquotes

Mr. Stern, Mr. Trump, Churchill Quotes and Misquotes

Novem­ber 27th— Writ­ing in the Dai­ly Beast, Mr. Mar­low Stern prais­es Kristin Scott Thomas (“Clemen­tine Churchill” in the new movie Dark­est Hour) and announces: “Don­ald Trump is No Win­ston Churchill.” (Past doubt, but who is?)

Mr. Stern him­self offers only one Churchill quote and gets it right: “A free press is the unsleep­ing guardian of every oth­er right that free men prize; it is the most dan­ger­ous foe of tyran­ny.” (Col­liers, 28 Decem­ber 1935.)

Bin­go! That’s an obscure one. For­give him for vast­ly exag­ger­at­ing Churchill’s alco­hol intake. (WSC’s “six whisky sodas” were described by his pri­vate sec­re­tary as “scotch-fla­vored mouth­wash.”)

A Stern list…

The list of Pres­i­den­tial tweets quot­ing Churchill, as pro­vid­ed by Mr. Stern, sug­gests a mid­dling score on the accu­ra­cy meter. Many fall into the cat­e­go­ry of “Churchillian Drift.”

These are pure fic­tion: “You have ene­mies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for some­thing, some­time in your life” … “If you’re going through hell, keep going” … “Social­ists think prof­its are a vice. I con­sid­er loss­es the real vice” … “Suc­cess is not final, fail­ure is not fatal” … “Suc­cess con­sists of going from fail­ure to fail­ure with­out loss of enthu­si­asm” … “How­ev­er beau­ti­ful the strat­e­gy you should occa­sion­al­ly look at the results” … “Atti­tude is a lit­tle thing that makes a big dif­fer­ence” … “Con­tin­u­ous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlock­ing our potential.”

So who coined those? Who knows?  As a wise man once said: “If you don’t know the author of a choice quote, cred­it it to Churchill, Ein­steinLin­coln or Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. Every­body will be impressed, and they all said so much that nobody knows the dif­fer­ence.” But Churchill rarely indulged in gra­tu­itous flat­u­lence and preaching.

* * *

Some of the President’s Churchill tweets are close, but Churchill’s exact words are bet­ter: “Each one [of the neu­tral nations] hopes that if he feeds the croc­o­dile enough, the croc­o­dile will eat him last” (20 Jan­u­ary 1940) … “It is no use say­ing, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to suc­ceed in doing what is nec­es­sary” (7 March 1916) … “The belief that secu­ri­ty can be obtained by throw­ing a small state to the wolves is a fatal delu­sion” (21 Sep­tem­ber 1938) …“…nev­er give in, nev­er, nev­er, nev­er, never—in noth­ing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to con­vic­tions of hon­our and good sense” (29 Octo­ber 1941).

The President’s ver­sions of these were minor devi­a­tions, but he did get one exact­ly right: “The price of great­ness is respon­si­bil­i­ty.” (Har­vard, 6 Sep­tem­ber 1943). We all of us might pon­der that one.

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