Everyone knows politicians can get in big trouble when they use someone else’s words without attribution–just ask Joe Biden. But as Carl Cannon notes in Politics Daily, they rarely get called on spurious attributions. From Tocqueville (who did not say, “America is great because America is good”) to Truman (who never advised, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog”), historical figures wrongly get the credit–or blame–for many of the aphorisms that clutter political discourse.
“Lincoln, most especially, is always being blamed for saying things he would never have even thought,” Cannon says. “Whether he is predicting the end of capitalism or ruminating about fooling the people some of the time (but not all of the time), writers and politicians who wouldn’t know a Lincoln quote from a log-splitter are forever trying to posthumously enlist Honest Abe in their pet causes.”