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Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – How many times have you checked your email, gone to your Facebook page, gone to your Twitter feed, go to your blog on your website and someone has gotten into an internet spat or an electronic spat with someone else and they have played the final trump card?  What is it?  It’s a quote.  How many times have you seen a quote played as the trump card and it’s got James Madison’s name attached to it, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, something to that effect?  Check out today’s transcript for the rest…

 

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Mike:  How many times have you checked your email, gone to your Facebook page, gone to your Twitter feed, go to your blog on your website and someone has gotten into an internet spat or an electronic spat with someone else and they have played the final trump card?  What is it?  It’s a quote.  [mocking] “Let me tell you something, buddy!”  How many times have you seen a quote played as the trump card and it’s got James Madison’s name attached to it, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, something to that effect?  [mocking] “Yeah, I got you now.  I won the fight.  I quoted a founder.”  Fine, you quoted a founder.  Great, wonderful.  Do you actually know that that founder actually said that?  Can you cite the source?  Do you actually know why or in what context he said it in?  Can you produce the source document?  Can you date it?

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Henry_detail_ChristmasThese things seem like trivial concerns but they’re not, and I’ll tell you why.  If you’re reading letters of 18th and 19th century statesmen, and if they’re quoting things and we can find these things today thanks to our electronic card catalog, Google, you can rely on the fact that they had the source right there in front of them.  They didn’t guess.  They didn’t say: Hey, man, somebody told me such and such said this in a book so I’m gonna put it in this letter here.  They had the source.  This is important.  They had the source in front of them.

Here’s what’s even more important.  They probably read the source, the entire source.  In other words, they didn’t just read that entire sentence.  They probably read an entire letter or they read the entire book or pamphlet or the transcript of the entire speech, that way they could put it into context.  They would know whether or not they should be using it.  This, in other words, was good scholarship on their part.  You may recall a month back or so that Senator Rand Paul was accused of plagiarizing things.  I said I love Senator Rand Paul.  He’s one of the few I do love and admire, and I mean that in the manliest sort of way.  We need for guys like Paul to be on their game on this.  They need to have good, solid, sound scholarship.  It elevates their cause.  It makes it that much less impregnable to criticism.  This is important.  We should all value this and we should all value scholarship for its own sake.  We all love to carp and complain about education.  You’re not doing anything about education if when you’re acting in a scholarly fashion you’re not doing what scholars do.  That doesn’t mean we all have to be scholars.

My point to Simpson was that nothing is altered or changed by the dropping in of the “trump card,” other than somebody goes: Nah nee nah nee boo boo!  No mind has been changed or altered.  No opinion has been moved.  No mighty course of great nations has been altered, nothing of the sort.  You know what’s happened?  A personal vendetta has been settled, that’s what’s happened.  I think it’s equally important, if you’re going to quote founders and use them as your trump cards, that you understand or have read what the founder read to arrive at his or her opinion.  There’s very little in that canon other than a few seminal works, and I mentioned two of them the other day, Jefferson’s “Summary View of the Rights of British America” and Dickinson’s “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania.”  There are very few of those works that are self-authored, and even in those works you will find references.

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