Famous quotes: The right interpretation

Gene Weingarten on

WASHINGTON -- Last month we witnessed several occasions where people cynically twisted history to justify right-wing ideology. Just before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, for example, Vice President Pence claimed that the civil rights' leader's "promise of democracy" speech was, in effect, an endorsement of the Trump wall. Later, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Republicans in Texas declared that a principal lesson of the Holocaust, which was perpetrated by a virulently, criminally right-wing regime, was that "Leftism kills."

Both of these statements smacked of genius, of course. If accuracy doesn't matter, if the audacious lie is no sin, there's no limit to how history can be used to support just about any lunatic assertion. With a little help from friends. I present some here:

When Ronald Reagan said, "Tear down this wall," he clearly wanted the construction materials harvested and shipped to the United States to build a different wall.

When Winston Churchill reportedly said, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on," he meant that, in life, the biggest liars are the biggest winners. Truth-tellers are dufuses with their pants down.

When Michelle Obama said, "When they go low, we go high," she was confessing that Democrats take drugs.

When Galileo said, "I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him," he was foreseeing the reign of a great leader half a millennium later.

When Lindsey Graham called President Trump a "race-baiting, xenophobic ... bigot" in 2015, he was just complimenting Trump on his impressive appeal to so much of the United States.

When Emma Lazarus wrote: "Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore ... " she was making the point that s--hole countries aren't sending us their best people.

When Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth," he was demanding an end to the inheritance tax.

When Thomas Jefferson reportedly said, "the government that governs best, governs least" he meant that at least 22 hours of a president's day should be devoted to watching TV.


When Malala Yousafzai said, "One child, one teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world," she was supporting Betsy DeVos's position that teachers don't need money for all those extra school supplies.

When Lincoln said, "Let us have faith that right makes might," he was expressing his hope that Republicans would advocate heavy defense spending.

When Confucius supposedly said, "Our greatest glory is rising when we fall," he meant that when police officers tase suspects to the ground, they are doing them a favor, since these people will find glory when they arise.

When God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, he was making the indelible point that deportation is the proper punishment for those who break the law.

When Barack Obama said, "We are the change that we seek," he was saying panhandling is good. What a lazy, entitled socialist slacker.

When Lincoln reportedly said, "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves," he meant the smartest people are conservative because they ... um ... OK, actually he meant exactly what he said.


Gene Weingarten can be reached at Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group


blog comments powered by Disqus

Social Connections


Andy Marlette Jimmy Margulies Mike Shelton Blondie Wizard of Id Chip Bok