Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Last week (or was it the week before?) presidential candidate Mike Huckabee published his much maligned foreign policy statement in Foreign Affairs magazine. In it, he attributed this quote to the 4th century Chinese military strategist, Sun-Tsu:

"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

Embarrassingly, SeeDubya at Junkyard Blog pointed out that the quote, while sometimes erroneously attributed to Sun-Tsu, actually appears to have originated (rather more recently) with Michael Corleone. When the quote is (mis-)attributed to an actual source, it's always cited as Sun-Tsu's treatise "The Art of War," the full text of which appears to be posted on line here. The, um, quote isn't there. Check your local movie listings.

A few days later, in response to a question about Huckabee's Christmas ad, presidential candidate Ron Paul responded:

"It reminds me of what Sinclair Lewis once said. He says, 'when fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.'

Now there are questions being raised as to whether this quote was misattributed as well. A number of people, including the president of The Sinclair Lewis Society, are skeptical about its origins. These folks are more than skeptical, and do a passable job of looking for the real source. Paul, of course, continues to claim he got it right. When the quote is (mis-)attributed to an actual source, it's usually cited as Sinclair's novel "It Can't Happen Here." Well, the full text of that novel appears to be posted on line here. The, um, quote isn't there (and as for the rest of the website ... you're on your own).

It will be interesting to see if either of these candidates manages to come up with a backstop, or if they even need to. Will the media just let these faux pas slip away into oblivion? And can we look forward to more misquotes by the other presidential candidates?

Fact-checking. It's the new black.