A Conservative Wishtory of the United States

My friend Jack Hitt has a funny piece in The New Yorker listing misstatements about American history by conservative politicians, beginning with these doozies: 

1500s: The American Revolutionary War begins: “The reason we fought the revolution in the sixteenth century was to get away from that kind of onerous crown.”—Rick Perry

1607: First welfare state collapses: “Jamestown colony, when it was first founded as a socialist venture, dang near failed with everybody dead and dying in the snow.”—Dick Armey

1619-1808: Africans set sail for America in search of freedom: “Other than Native Americans, who were here, all of us have the same story.”—Michele Bachmann

1775: Paul Revere “warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells and making sure as he was riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”—Sarah Palin

1775: New Hampshire starts the American Revolution: “What I love about New Hampshire… You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world.”—Michele Bachmann

[Ed. note: One of these claims seems much closer to being true: see page 1336-38 of Property in Land].

Freakonomics Nation: can we produce an analogous list of historical misstatements by liberal pols? We’ll give out some Freakonomics swag to a clear winner or two. 

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COMMENTS: 75


  1. Nate says:

    Joe Biden – FDR went on tv to reassure the American people after the Stock Market crash

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  2. Mike says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Steve Nations says:

      After touching down, the astronauts went through their post-landing checklist. So they both said several things before Armstrong finally said, “Houston, Tranquility Base here.” So Perry is wrong here, even though I would bet the vast majority of people would think he’s right.

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      • MikeM says:

        The first words spoken ON the moon would be whatever the astronauts uttered to each other in their post-landing checklists. But the first word FROM the moon would be the first word transmitted to Earth, or anywhere else, FROM the moon. That would be ‘Houston’ since it begins the first transmission, as I understand it.

        Not to mention the fact that the New Yorker piece alludes to Neil Armstrong making a historic utterance. The piece is not suggesting the first words were within the lander; it is clearly confusing the first word from the moon with the first word after stepping down from the lander.

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      • Seminymous Coward says:

        The radio was on when Eagle transmitted “Contact light.” CAPCOM responded to that set of comments with “We copy you down, Eagle.” The official transcript ( http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/history/mission_trans/AS11_PAO.PDF ) is pretty long, but you can find the relevant passage by searching for “Eagle has landed”, which only appears once.

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      • MikeM says:

        Alright, I stand corrected. But still, Jack Hitt implies Perry should have known the first word was Armstrong’s famous “that’s” instead of the far less famous “contact.” It’s quibbling over technical details, not failing to grasp history.

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      • Steve Nations says:

        I agree with MikeM, that although Perry is technically wrong, it’s not like he’s rewriting history to any significant degree, or making an egregious mistake that’s worthy of ridicule. A little perspective on this one would help.

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  3. Walter Wimberly says:

    The first part of Palin’s statement is also true. The British were coming to arrest several individuals (leaders) and seize the militia’s cache of arms.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Revere's_Ride#Modern – among others.

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    • James Curran says:

      But the important point here (and why Palin’s statement is wrong), is that by her wording, she’s saying that the *purpose* of Paul Revere’s ride was to warn (or taunt) the British, when it was actually to roust the Minutemen. That Revere may have told the British later that we were ready for them is largely irrelevant.

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  4. Brian says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Molly says:

      I think a very “anything” mindset leads to misstatements. That’s because if you have bought into any belief system, you naturally view everything through that lens. If your belief system is extreme — conservative, liberal, religious cult — you have to see real life as distorted, because in general, real life is not extreme.

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    • Kotter says:

      You’re joking, right? Why would a misstatement by a liberal pol be largely made-up but conservative misstatements be accurate? Explain how that is possible. The conservative mindset leads itself to historical dissonance? What tripe.

      I guess liberals have don’t suffer from historical dissonance –

      1. Keynesian stimulus spending always creates long-term economic growth.
      2. History has proven that taxing and spending is a good idea
      3. We shouldn’t provoke the Soviets by building up our defense because it will lead to world war
      4. Changes in tax policy has no impact on people’s behavior – if we increase taxes by 10%, that will absolutely lead to exactly 10% more tax revenue
      5. Che Guevera is a revolutionary hero, not a despicable mass-murderer
      6. More people are in prison and crime has gone way down, which means we should have fewer prisons and incarcerate fewer people

      There are plenty a lot of ill-informed politicians on both sides of the aisle, but for you to actually believe what you wrote the above means that you are not only ill-informed but delusional. Of course I could do the same thing – At least 75% of Liberals wet the bed/don’t wash their hands after they go to the bathroom/kick their dogs/make stupid statements on economics blogs.

      That has about as much validity as your ridiculous contention. But to your point, here are a few examples that show that idiotic proclamations are not confined to one side of the political aisle (and please don’t turn around and say ‘Oh yeah, well Bush was worse’ – as I said and as shown above, both sides say idiotic things, almost certainly in equal amounts):

      “There’s a lot of — I don’t know what the term is in Austrian — wheeling and dealing …”
      “And in Creole, Corpse-man Brossard responded…..”
      “I’ve now been in 57 states — I think one left to go.”
      “The notion that any job is better than no job no longer applies” (a bit of NY local idiocy)
      ”My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.”
      ”Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.”
      “We do not have a crisis at Freddie Mac, and particularly Fannie Mae, under the outstanding leadership of Frank Raines.”
      “You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

      I could go on, but I hope you get the point and stop saying such ludicrous things.

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      • rationalrevolution says:

        I’ve never heard a single person state any of those things…

        Provide quotes…

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      • Lawrence says:

        What are your sources for those quotes, and to whom are you attributing them?

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      • Molly says:

        Dude, folks, if you can’t find these quotes by using cut and paste and Google, well, I’m not sure what to say.

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      • Tom says:

        Thank GOD for this post. I’m starting to think everyone has gone crazy. Thanks, Kotter.

        I remember when Howard Dean told an ensemble of college students: “The president and his right-wing Supreme Court think it is ‘okay’ to have the government take your house if they feel like putting a hotel where your house is”

        This struck me as the most egregious example ever because: 1.) the Kelo decision had JUST happened, it’s not like some revisionist history with a particularly ambitious drift had had years to teeter off course. 2.) Bush had not yet appointed a SINGLE supreme court justice, and there is no way Howard Dean didn’t know that. 3.) The dissenters were all conservative and the 5 vote majority had the whole liberal bloc.

        I vividly remember this because I was approached at a college party by someone unsure whether to become a drunk or a political activist and the thing he was really angry about was eminent domain laws and he blamed Bush. I went home and did a little research and realized that someone like Howard Dean peddled this nonsense to him. But the swiftness of the execution and the fact that 1.) Dean believed he could get away with saying this in public and 2.) people actually BELIEVED him in this age of instant information and 24 hours news was when I realized that there really are no limits to what people believe. Of course no one outside of a few fringe blogs actually reported on this – the media doesn’t eat their own.

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  5. BW says:

    “In our country during the ’50s and ’60s, black churches were burned to intimidate civil rights workers. I have vivid and painful memories of black churches being burned in my own state when I was a child.”

    President Bill Clinton

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  6. frankenduf says:

    of course one of the ironies here is that the repubs want to replace school children’s history books with ‘approved’ texts

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    • Seminymous Coward says:

      When you argue for a side, you are seeking to represent that side. As such, it is vital to avoid embarrassing it. I’d suggest that the use of scare quotes is not helping your side. Furthermore, textbooks do generally need to be approved, and that much is reasonable and good. Confining yourself to complaints about the content of the textbooks that Texas approves would serve your cause far better. Doing it by referring to the terrible changes they’ve specifically requested in the past would be better still.

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  7. James says:

    While I don’t keep track of liberal politicians’ misstatements of fact (even if I paid attention, I haven’t the memory capacity), I do note a few statements in that article that are actually true. For instance, “September 11, 2001: Nothing happened: “We had no domestic attacks under Bush.”—Rudy Giuliani” is true: 9/11 was a FOREIGN attack. Likewise, a good many of the founders DID oppose slavery, there iIS a growing body of scientific evidence showing that moderate levels of radiation are not harmful, etc.

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    • Seminymous Coward says:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_terrorism_in_the_United_States contains 2 entries during Bush’s term; one is quite clear-cut. None of those founders “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States” unless you have an example of one surviving to 1865. Anne Coulter claimed radiation could “reduce cases of cancer” not merely fail to do substantive harm.

      If you want to snipe at the article, here’s some better material: It makes arbitrary extra claims, like saying the Constitution banned slavery, which is false like what Michelle Bachman said but still isn’t what she said. Also, it conflates errors in what occurred with momentary slips of the tongue no one would defend later, like the 16th century thing, which are embarrassing but entirely different.

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      • James says:

        I wasn’t claiming that Guiliani’s claim of no domestic terrorism was true, but rather that the article’s implication that 9/11 was a domestic attack is false.

        Likewise, the article implies that all the founders were supporters of slavery, which is false, and there is some evidence that higher than average background radiation is associated with lower cancer risk, for instance Colorado vs Massachusetts. See e.g. http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/C/CancerRisk.html

        Unfortunately for politicians and their critics, both left and right, we don’t live in a world of strict Boolean logic: sometimes (often, IMHO) both sides are wrong.

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      • Seminymous Coward says:

        I suppose I misread your sentence regarding Giuliani then; I don’t think it makes your intent very clear.

        The article doesn’t imply that all founders supported slavery anywhere that I see.

        It does seem to be true that there exists some evidence in favor of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis . It seems that two US research bodies and a UN one don’t think it’s enough or legitimate, although Ann Coulter is in the strange position of being backed by France (for non-humans in a laboratory environment).

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    • Enter your name... says:

      It depends on what you mean by “domestic attack”: is that “attack that hit a domestic target” or “attack perpetrated by a domestic person or organization”?

      Timothy McVeigh was a domestic person who hit a domestic target. Should Germany have considered the carpet-bombing of Dresden by the US and Britain to be a “domestic attack”? If not, then the US shouldn’t consider the 9/11 attacks to be domestic attacks. If so, then it should. I think reasonable people might have different definitions here.

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  8. Seminymous Coward says:

    He may not have actually said it, but I want the stuff enough to at least mention that Al Gore invented the Internet sometime in the 1977-1986-ish timeframe. Besides, some of the original article’s entries’ falsity rests on deliberately uncharitable interpretations, too.

    I’m sure some liberal has been caught publicly claiming stuff about George Washington cutting down a cherry tree, Vikings visiting Minnesota, Columbus discovering just about anything, Benjamin Franklin flying a kite, and the like. I don’t think those are very substantive, though; they don’t really represent a difference from conservatives, just a prevailing lack of fact checking.

    If you want serious answers, Politifact has some, but most aren’t very pithy. For example, President Obama said when President Franklin D. Roosevelt started Social Security, “it only affected widows and orphans” when in fact they were tied for the second category to be covered (after retired workers) starting about 4 years later.

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    • rationalrevolution says:

      Actually, All Gore never said that he invented the internet, that itself was conservative propaganda, and Al Gore was instrumental in the transformation of the internet into an open system available to the public. It was created as an academic and military system, and a lot fo conservatives wanted to keep it that way, but Al Gore pushed forward legislation making it possible for businesses to engage in e-commerce on it, etc.

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      • Seminymous Coward says:

        If you really want, you can substitute “He did not actually say it” for “He may not have actually said it” at the very beginning of my comment. I apologize if you found it unclear. I was not claiming he said it, as I’m familiar with the sourcing.

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  9. Dr. Van Nostrand says:

    Using Michele Bachmann quotes should be considered cheating

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  10. m says:

    Do misstatements about the recent past count?

    “I’ve now been in 57 states…” by Barack Obama.

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    • James says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • BW says:

        ‘humorous exaggeration’

        I nominate James for making Wishtory :)

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      • James Curran says:

        Actually, it was him realizing, that trips to three states were planned, but he had actually been to them yet..

        “I’ve now been in 50…um…47 states, with three to go.”

        In shifting the wording, mid-statement, the “forty” of “forty-seven” wasn’t vocalized enough to be heard.

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  11. Dan says:

    Well you can always start with president obama visiting 57 US States!

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  12. kip says:

    The Rick Perry example is an easy mistake to make, and implies nothing about his understanding of historical events. Most people know that the seventeen hundreds are *not* the seventeenth century, but most people also wouldn’t be able to determine in the middle of a speech if they need to add one or subtract one from the first two digits of the year to get the century number.

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  13. Matt says:

    Joe Biden: “When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the princes of greed. He said, ‘look, here’s what happened.’”

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  14. Quin says:

    Just saw this in the Washington Times:

    “With the advance of Union forces, it brought a new day — that all persons held as slaves would henceforth be forever free,” Mr. Obama said.

    Actually, the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in 10 Southern states who were, at the time, mostly beyond the control of the federal government. And the document didn’t free an estimated 500,000 slaves in four slave-holding border states — Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware — that were loyal to the Union. Slavery was ended in those states by various state and federal actions later on.

    Obama garbles U.S. history in human trafficking speech – Washington Times http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/sep/25/obama-garbles-us-history-human-trafficking-speech/#ixzz27VtBy3UL

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  15. Alan T says:

    For more on Jamestown, see Acemoglu and Robinson, “Why Nations Fail.” The Virginia Company, which financed the Jamestown settlement, expected the Jamestown settlers to enslave the natives and find gold, as the Spanish had done in South America. “The notion that the settlers themselves would work and grow their own food seems not to have crossed their minds. That is not what conquerors of the New World did.” After the winter of 1609-1610, in which all but 60 of the 500 settlers perished, the Virginia Company forced the settlers to farm the land, which the company owned: “Men were housed in barracks, and given company-determined rations. Work gangs were chosen, each one overseen by an agent of the company.” While it is true that the settlers did not own the land that they farmed, this sounds more like slavery than socialism. Finally, in 1618, the company gave each settler 50 acres of land, “and, in 1619, a General Assembly was introduced that effectively gave all adult men a say in the laws and institutions governing the colony. It was the start of democracy in the United States.”

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    • tmeier says:

      In medieval Europe it was considered wrong to hold co-religionists as slaves but alright to enslave people of other religions. This was true of both Muslims and Christians.
      The Spanish record in the New World was more mixed and complex than ‘enslave-the-natives-and-profit’. In principle they enslaved hostile non-christian natives they defeated but individual people being what they are there were plenty of lapses.
      The situation was similar with the first African slaves in Jamestown. Initially the Christian children of African slaves were not slaves but the statutes were soon changed. It’s probably in justification of the economic decision to keep the offspring of slaves in servitude Christian or not that the idea of racial inferiority crept into European culture. In ancient times people generally felt other peoples were inferior because of their culture, not their race.

      Irrationally justifying an injury done to another is a very potent psychological mechanism in all peoples.

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  16. Scott J says:

    The first quote from Rick Perry is not inaccurate. The years 1501 to 1600 are referred to as the sixteenth century.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Century#Start_and_end_in_the_Gregorian_Calendar

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    • ann n mouse says:

      I’ve never posted here, cuz everyone knows economics better than me… But come on! You are correct Scott, but why don’t you use that Wikipedia to also find out when the American Revolution started.

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  17. tmeier says:

    Found these without much digging.

    “we find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we’re all created equal.”

    Barack Obama

    “What does the Constitution say? To provide for the health, welfare and the defense of the country.”

    Senator Roland Burris

    “For Castro, freedom starts with education. And if literacy alone were the yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on Earth. The literacy rate is 96%.”

    Barbara Walters

    “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

    Attributed to M. L. King Jr. on White House rug.

    Tell them (Jews) to get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, these people are occupied, and it’s their land. [after being asked where their home was:] Poland, Germany… and America and everywhere else.

    Helen Thomas

    “Hitler had a lot of Jews high up in the hierarchy of the Third Reich.”

    Harry Belafonte

    “Go through the history of time. During the Salem witch hunt, the liberals thought there was no such thing as witches, and the conservative view was ‘They’re witches and they all have to die.’ ”

    George Clooney

    ”The Middle East is obviously an issue that has plagued the region for centuries.”

    Barack Obama

    “Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and Confederate swastika flying side by side.”

    Julian Bond

    “A nation (the United States) that continues, year after year, to spend more money on defense than social programs is nearing spiritual death.”

    Danny Glover

    “I do believe that it’s the first time in history (the World Trade Center collapse) that fire has ever melted steel.”

    Rosie O’Donnell

    ” I want to talk about a terrorist called Christopher Columbus. I want to talk about a terrorist called George Washington. I want to talk about a terrorist called Rudy Giuliani. The real terrorists have always been the United Snakes of America.”

    Malik Zulu Shabazz

    ” It isn’t happening now, but I will tell you – there has never been an army as violent and murderous as our army has been in Iraq. ”

    Seymour Hersh

    “We’re seeing the reality of a lot of the North Pole starting to evaporate, and we could get to a tipping point. Because if it evaporates to a certain point – they have lanes now where ships can go that couldn’t ever sail through before. And if it gets to a point where it evaporates too much, there’s a lot of tundra that’s being held down by that ice cap.”

    Henry Waxman

    “I am clearly more popular than Reagan. I am in my third term. Where’s Reagan? Gone after two! Defeated by George Bush and Michael Dukakis no less.”

    Marion Barry

    “A zebra does not change its spots.” (I suppose this is true as far as it goes)

    Al Gore

    And last, not really a fit but I find it amusing.

    “Most Americans, in their heart, are liberal and progressive.”
    ”They (Americans) are possibly the dumbest people on the planet.”

    Michael Moore

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    • Gervase Markham says:

      ““For Castro, freedom starts with education. And if literacy alone were the yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on Earth. The literacy rate is 96%.”

      The second sentence of that is certainly true. See the Wikipedia article on Cuba, and its references.

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      • tmeier says:

        In a society where information is controlled by the state, cannot be independently checked in any way, how can you know?

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    • Seminymous Coward says:

      “we find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we’re all created equal.”
      Barack Obama
      A promise can be enshrined in the Constitution (as amended) without those words being present.

      “What does the Constitution say? To provide for the health, welfare and the defense of the country.”
      Senator Roland Burris
      The preamble says two of those three things outright. The first word in Google’s definition of welfare is “health.”

      “For Castro, freedom starts with education. And if literacy alone were the yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on Earth. The literacy rate is 96%.”
      Barbara Walters
      You know that disliking the part of the sentence in an “if” doesn’t make the whole sentence false, right?

      “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
      Attributed to M. L. King Jr. on White House rug.
      This is not a statement of fact; therefore, it is not falsifiable.

      Tell them (Jews) to get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, these people are occupied, and it’s their land. [after being asked where their home was:] Poland, Germany… and America and everywhere else.
      Helen Thomas
      This is not a statement of fact; therefore, it is not falsifiable.

      “Hitler had a lot of Jews high up in the hierarchy of the Third Reich.”
      Harry Belafonte
      Mr. Belafonte is not a politician.

      “Go through the history of time. During the Salem witch hunt, the liberals thought there was no such thing as witches, and the conservative view was ‘They’re witches and they all have to die.’ ”
      George Clooney
      Mr. Clooney is not a politician.

      ”The Middle East is obviously an issue that has plagued the region for centuries.”
      Barack Obama
      “The Middle East” here is quite clearly being used as a shorthand for the conflicts, both historical and ongoing, there. This is a pretty common idiomatic usage, and this raises the possibility of an intentional misreading.

      “Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and Confederate swastika flying side by side.”
      Julian Bond
      This is not a statement of fact; therefore, it is not falsifiable.

      “A nation (the United States) that continues, year after year, to spend more money on defense than social programs is nearing spiritual death.”
      Danny Glover
      This is not a statement of fact; therefore, it is not falsifiable.

      “I do believe that it’s the first time in history (the World Trade Center collapse) that fire has ever melted steel.”
      Rosie O’Donnell
      Mrs. O’Donnell is not a politician.

      ” I want to talk about a terrorist called Christopher Columbus. I want to talk about a terrorist called George Washington. I want to talk about a terrorist called Rudy Giuliani. The real terrorists have always been the United Snakes of America.”
      Malik Zulu Shabazz
      These are not “historical misstatements” so much as nonsensical rhetoric; they don’t relate to any event or date, just name calling. I’d also note that Mr. Shabazz is a member of the Black Panther Party.

      ” It isn’t happening now, but I will tell you – there has never been an army as violent and murderous as our army has been in Iraq. ”
      Seymour Hersh
      Mr. Hersh is not a politician.

      “We’re seeing the reality of a lot of the North Pole starting to evaporate, and we could get to a tipping point. Because if it evaporates to a certain point – they have lanes now where ships can go that couldn’t ever sail through before. And if it gets to a point where it evaporates too much, there’s a lot of tundra that’s being held down by that ice cap.”
      Henry Waxman
      This is a scientific misstatement, not an historical one.

      “I am clearly more popular than Reagan. I am in my third term. Where’s Reagan? Gone after two! Defeated by George Bush and Michael Dukakis no less.”
      Marion Barry
      I suppose you get credit for this one, even if it sounds more like crazed ranting than claimed history to me.

      “A zebra does not change its spots.” (I suppose this is true as far as it goes)
      Al Gore
      Like you said, that’s just flat-out true. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuous_truth

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      • tmeier says:

        Hey, that’s fun! Let me try.

        “The reason we fought the revolution in the sixteenth century was to get away from that kind of onerous crown.”—Rick Perry

        Since who ‘we’ refers to is not defined and ‘crown’ has several meanings the statement is not falsifiable.

        “Jamestown colony, when it was first founded as a socialist venture, dang near failed with everybody dead and dying in the snow.”—Dick Armey

        ‘Socialism’ is an idea which can be manifested in an organization without that word being present.

        1619-1808: Africans set sail for America in search of freedom: “Other than Native Americans, who were here, all of us have the same story.”—Michele Bachmann

        Since it can not be proved that at least two Africans did not set sail for America in search of freedom the statement is not falsifiable.

        Paul Revere “warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells and making sure as he was riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”—Sarah Palin

        Actually this is true, Paul Revere was captured by British soldiers and told them what he was doing and the British were of course trying to seize a cache of arms.

        According to Revere’s own account under interrogation by the British he said:

        “I know what you are after and have alarmed the country all the way up.”

        1775: New Hampshire starts the American Revolution: “What I love about New Hampshire… You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world.”—Michele Bachmann

        If you put the emphasis on ‘you’re’ you can see this is nonsensical rhetoric, she is saying ‘you (the people of New Hampshire) really started the revolution.

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      • Seminymous Coward says:

        You seem to assume that because I don’t agree with most of your entries I think the original article is fine; as I have already pointed out, I do not. It is clearly intentionally misreading some of the source quotations to make them false.

        Rick Perry’s “we” antecedent and “crown” reference are perfectly clear in the context of the original speech. The statement is, in fact, both falsifiable and false. It’s also a silly slip, not an intentional position on what happened.

        Armey’s quote is probably fine.

        You responded to the original article’s mocking interpretation of Bachmann’s “Other than Native Americans” quote and not her words. All the same, I can’t find a full transcript of the speech easily, so I won’t be backing the claim that it makes a historical misstatement, since for all I know the next sentence was “Our ancestors were all immigrants, willing or otherwise, to a foreign land.”

        Regarding Palin’s quote, I don’t think Paul Revere actually personally rang any bells or fired any shots, alarm, warning, or otherwise. If you have a strong citation, I could be persuaded otherwise.

        If’ you’re going to defend Bachmann’s NH “shot heard round the world” quote, I’d suggest an argument based on distinguishing between where something occurs and where it is heard instead. I honestly don’t think that quote is all that bad; that entry seems more like an intentional misinterpretation to me.

        On a broader note, historical claims are falsifiable under a standard of reasonable evidence. Opinions are not falsifiable because they are not claims of fact. For example, “We should kill all the [ethnic group]” is a terrible, morally evil opinion; it is not, however, falsifiable, as it is not stating a “fact.”

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      • tmeier says:

        It’s the bald sophistry, not the motive behind it I find risible.

        A few highlights:

        You insist on parsing the definition of ‘welfare’ despite the context and obvious intent yet don’t bother to turn to the definition of ‘pol’ (a person active in party politics) or even ‘politician’ (one who is actively involved in politics, especially party politics.) and so dismiss most of my citations out of hand, again despite the intent of the exercise.

        You are sweeping and forgiving in treating remarks by the favored as “idiomatic” or “rhetoric” yet demand literal and exact interpretations of common phrases coming from less favored mouths.

        You dismiss remarks which obviously show confusion, misapprehension and/or ignorance as ’not falsifiable’ again despite the obvious intent of the exercise which is to show there is no demonstrable preponderance of these qualities on either side of the liberal/conservative argument. In other words the point of the quotations is not whether they can be ‘falsified’ according to some logical or mathematical stricture but whether they show confusion, misapprehension or ignorance.

        What you have done, in short, is to selectively apply standards and ignore the point. You aren’t a lawyer by any chance?

        I would not have bothered to join in but for my distaste for these playground taunts which pass for discourse, “my dad (the people who agree with me) is smarter than your dad”, it would be hilarious were it not so tragic. Still you have to laugh or cry.

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      • Seminymous Coward says:

        The point was to “produce an analogous list of historical misstatements by liberal pols” not to list a bunch of things that liberal public figures of any kind have said with which you disagree. The items have to relate to history, be false (requiring they be claims of facts), be made by liberals, and be made by politicians. Someone saying something staggeringly stupid does not automatically qualify.

        We may have different definitions of politician. If you sincerely think they’re politicians, then the quotes from Belafonte, Clooney, O’Donnell, and Hersh qualify.

        Your claim regarding differing standards falls apart in detail, so I’ll let my comments on the quotes I’ve discussed stand as a defense.

        You flat-out made up the “intent of the exercise” being to “show confusion, misapprehension or ignorance.” I suppose you succeeded at it, but you can hardly blame me for judging your efforts by the rules of the actual question.

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    • Mark says:

      In reply to the below: These are correct statements.
      It is possible that non-scientists quoting this statement cannot figure out where the water goes when the ice caps melt. The majority of it ends up as cloud cover. The process of melting ice to water and turning it into clouds is evaporation.
      The statement of the tundra being held down by the ice caps is referring to the increased rate of earth quakes in places where there are no tektonic rift zones due to the release of tension. You can google this by checking on earth quakes in eastern maritime provinces in Canada.
      The statement of tipping point refers to the evidence that much of the carbon dioxide generated in history is currently dissolved in sea water. The process of dissolution of gases in liquids is a very fast process.

      Henry Waxman’s statement is scientifically correct and is all the more impressive because I don’t believe he truly grasps the science he was quoting.

      “We’re seeing the reality of a lot of the North Pole starting to evaporate, and we could get to a tipping point. Because if it evaporates to a certain point – they have lanes now where ships can go that couldn’t ever sail through before. And if it gets to a point where it evaporates too much, there’s a lot of tundra that’s being held down by that ice cap.”
      Henry Waxman
      This is a scientific misstatement, not an historical one.”

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      • James says:

        Sorry, but no. Mr. Waxman’s statement is ludicrously incorrect. The North Pole is not going to evaporate. (For one thing, the North Pole is a geographical/geometric fiction: there’s no actual pole there :-) It’s perfectly correct that human-caused global warming is causing a lot of the Arctic ice to melt, &c, but melting and evaporation are two quite different things.

        Like Mitt Romney’s recent remark about non-opening aircraft windows, it makes me wonder how some of these politicians (irrespective of party) manage to cope with life outside sheltered housing.

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      • Molly says:

        James, Romney’s comment was A JOKE! Geez, read something beyond the liberal bloggers! He was making a JOKE about the smoke that filled his airplane.

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      • James Curran says:

        Molly — The problem with that interpretation is that a) he didn’t say it like a joke, and b) as he was talking about his wife nearly dying, it would be an odd time to make a joke. It’s more likely he meant it as “Instead of having emergency exits by just a couple of seats, why don’t they have them by every seat in the place of the windows”

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      • James says:

        “Romney’s comment was A JOKE!”

        Was it? How do you know? Doesn’t seem like he was joking, in the context, but with Romney, it can be hard to tell.

        BTW, my source was mainstream news, not a liberal blog (I try to keep my reading of those at the same near-zero level as conservative blogs), and my source at least made it clear that it was not his airplane, but one on which his wife was travelling.

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  18. J1 says:

    Sen Patty Murray on Osama Bin Laden:

    (Bin Laden was) “building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day-care facilities, building health-care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We have not done that.”

    http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2002072029_murray25m.html

    For Brian, here’s the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGbmT5Rlwc

    As you note, Armey’s statement is correct. Palin’s is mostly correct too, though Revere himself was not the one ringing bells and firing guns.

    It might be more interesting to do a post on cases in which one side criticizes the ignorance of the other side when the critic is the one who’s wrong.

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  19. Brandon says:

    The Coulter 2011 quote is a description of radiation hormesis. I believe the science is still out on whether it’s a real phenomenon, but it’s not just something she made up.

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  20. Joshua Macy says:

    “When we kicked — along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, “Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don’t know — if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.” – Joe Biden

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

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  21. Cory says:

    During Colbert’s recent “Better Know a District” segment, Yvette Clark talked about slavery still existing in 1898.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/05/congresswoman-yvette-clarke-claims-slavery-still-around-1898-colbert-report_n_1857969.html

    “If you could get in a time machine and go back to 1898, what would you say to those Brooklynites?” Colbert asked in the segment.

    “I would say to them, ‘Set me free,’” Clarke responded.

    Gamely pressing on, Colbert inquired from what would the Congresswoman wish to be free from. “Slavery,” Clarke replied.

    “Slavery. Really? I didn’t realize there was slavery in Brooklyn in 1898,” Colbert said, perhaps in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to give the native Brooklyner a do-over.

    “I’m pretty sure there was,” Clarke responded.

    “It sounds like a horrible part of the United States that kept slavery going until 1898,” Colbert commented, struggling to keep a straight face.

    “Who would be enslaving you in 1898 in New York?” Colbert pressed. According to Clarke, none other than the Dutch.

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  22. Dave says:

    “We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad.” — Barack Obama, Cincinnati, OH, Sept. 22, 2011

    “In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died — an entire town destroyed.” — Barack Obama, on a Kansas tornado that killed 12 people

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  23. MikeM says:

    Can anyone explain what’s wrong with this Romney quote?

    1812: The American War for Independence ends: “ ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’…that song—written during the battle in the War of 1812—commemorates the sacrifice that won our liberty.”—Mitt Romney

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    • James Curran says:

      The song “commemorates the sacrifice ” of those fighting the War of 1812, which neither won our liberty, nor even did much to preserve it. (And it actually doesn’t really commemorates their sacrifice — The combatants are hardly mentioned — just their pyrotechnicality of their weapons, and a little bit about the general citizenry being free and brave.)

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      • MikeM says:

        Well, I agree, but it still doesn’t seem much like Romney getting his history wrong and more like he’s being rather loose with his interpretation of the poem.

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  24. Mark says:

    “Sorry, but no. Mr. Waxman’s statement is ludicrously incorrect. The North Pole is not going to evaporate. (For one thing, the North Pole is a geographical/geometric fiction: there’s no actual pole there :-) It’s perfectly correct that human-caused global warming is causing a lot of the Arctic ice to melt, &c, but melting and evaporation are two quite different things.”

    The North Pole is used to describe the geographical location, the location of the magnetic north pole and in common usage it is used to describe the arctic ice mass surrounding the former two.
    Melting and evaporation are not so different at very cold temperatures. Sublimation would have been the scientifically correct term to use for what is actually occurring on the surface of the ice which is the portion of ice that is visible. I’ll accept evaporation as the closest equivalent in common use language, sublimation is a form of evaporation where the material does not pass through the liquid state. Melting occurs as well but it occurs from the bottom of the ice and on the edges. The effects of melting are not easily measurable directly until the shipping lanes are open (as stated by Waxman). The effects of sublimation (or evaporation) are readily measurable by determining the rate of change in thickness, density and composition of ice cores.

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    • James says:

      But sublimation is not a significant cause of Arctic ice loss, while actual melting does occur on the ice surface during the relatively warm summers.

      I suppose that it’s technically accurate to say that there is some evaporation going on in the Arctic, just as it’s technically accurate that my single-engine, non-pressurized Piper does have a window that opens. But both statements, in context, still betray a certain monumental cluelessness

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      • James says:

        …as the “North Pole” – AKA the Arctic Ocean – is not likely to evaporate any time soon – and if it does, any humans who haven’t relocated to Mars will be too extinct to worry about it :-)

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  25. Douglas says:

    Apparently, Robert Allison, Chair of History Dept. at Suffolk University in Boston would disagree with your friend Jack Hitt on the accuracy of Palin’s comments. Palin’s no historian, but apparently, she understood the importance of the colonial arms depot in Concord to both the British and Americans much better than today’s journalists.
    http://www.npr.org/2011/06/06/137011636/how-accurate-were-palins-comments-on-paul-revere

    Add in that Jamestown really was founded as a socialist settlement with land held in common and people receiving their share of the common output irregardless of how much work they contributed, and it looks like this list needs to be shortened up a bit. I’m sure, though, that one can find plenty of fodder from conservative blabbermouths to replace these with. Better fact-checking would certainly be in order, though.

    Regarding liberal misstatements, I’m quite fond of Obama claiming to have visited 57 states during his 2008 presidential campaign. It is funny to watch him pause as he tries to recall how many states there are right before making this gaffe.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpGH02DtIws

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  26. Maire says:

    Lame. Instead of getting a Conservative “wishtory” I got a series of misstatements, most of which don’t seem like they would be especially “wished for” by their speakers. Also, something tells me it wouldn’t be hard to drum up a similar list for Liberals.

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  27. mannyv says:

    What about: government stimulus spending on infrastructure led the US out of the Great Depression?

    It’s a falsehood, but is the basis of every Democratic administration’s economic policy during a downturn.

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  28. Jeffrey Tarter says:

    Ms. Bachmann happens to be quite right: New Hampshire was in fact the first British colony to set up an independent government and the first to establish a constitution (January 5, 1776). That “shot” was certainly heard in London, and probably very quickly throughout the rest of the British Empire.

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  29. Eric says:

    “Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and Confederate swastika flying side by side.”

    Julian Bond

    This is not a statement of fact; therefore, it is not falsifiable.

    —–
    But the Confederates never had a swastica

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  30. Mark Bahner says:

    “1619-1808: Africans set sail for America in search of freedom: “Other than Native Americans, who were here, all of us have the same story.”—Michele Bachmann”

    My first American ancestor (on my father’s side) was a Hessian soldier POW who never went back.

    Still, he had the “same story” as others, in that he wasn’t born in America.

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  31. cathy carron says:

    this is hardly material for this website…

    but then again what about Obama’s reference to the “57″ states (in the USA)….and here’s Obama’s greatest blooper hits as spoken by the man himself!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxXh6ZWfbDg

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