Posted by Curt on 29 July, 2016 at 3:52 pm. 4 comments already!


Weekly Standard:

Hillary Clinton recycled a misquotation of Alexis de Tocqueville Thursday night, minus the misattribution. “[I]n the end, it comes down to what Donald Trump doesn’t get: that America is great—because America is good,” she said.

As the line came around again a couple of decades ago, John Pitney pointed out in THE WEEKLY STANDARD that candidates and presidents from Eisenhower to Buchanan to the previous Clinton have all misquoted American history’s favorite tourist.

As Pitney, a professor at Claremont McKenna, put it:

The authenticity of the passage came into question when first-year government students at Claremont McKenna College received an assignment: Find a contemporary speech quoting Tocqueville, and determine how accurately the speaker used the quotation. A student soon uncovered a recent Senate floor speech that cited the “America is great” line. He scoured Democracy in America, but could not find the passage. The professor looked, too — and it was not there.

[…] Whatever its origin, the passage found its way into circulation. President Reagan used it in a 1982 speech, though his speechwriter hedged by attributing it to Eisenhower’s quotation of Tocqueville. Two years later, Reagan declared that Tocqueville “is said to have observed that ‘America is great because America is good.'” Thereafter, his speechwriters grew less careful, and several subsequent Reagan addresses quoted from the passage without any qualifications. At this point, it started showing up with greater frequency in political rhetoric.

Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America introduced a young America to herself in 1835. His philosophical prophecies, essential to the establishment of a national self-awareness (a collective individuation, if you will), are as canonical as can be.

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