Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Fustest with the Mostest?

The Republicans are now at the point of actually whining publicly for war. They got their way for about six years and had a grand old time starting two unwinnable, grisly Middle Eastern wars and decimating what remained of America's middle class. But the country has started to turn away from them a bit, their rival party is threatening to actually force an end to the infinite war they worked so hard to start, and things have gone downhill quickly.

Rudy Giuliani is out there debasing himself, making thinly-veiled Gangland-style threats against citizens who may consider voting Democratic. (As a prosecutor, Giuliani used to go after mobsters, and if movies have taught me anything, it's that legal practicioners who spend too long around the criminal element eventually become seduced by the mystique and power.) "Look, I'm not trying to threaten you or nothing, but if you vote for one of those other guys...I can't be responsible for unfortunate accidents that may happen to befall your person or place of residence, you know what I'm saying? Fuhgeddaboutit."

Now, some asshat hauls out the above quote on the floor of the goddamn House of Representatives! Seriously!

On Monday, Rep. Ted Poe took to the House floor to discuss foreign policy matters. To make a point, the Texas Republican invoked the words of Civil War Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest: “Git thar fustest with the mostest.”

Oh, yeah, and one little note about famed Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest...

The quotation got some floor watchers’ attention pretty quickly. Forrest is a controversial figure who was one of the Klan’s first grand wizards. Although the Civil War hero (if you were a Confederate, that is) ultimately abandoned the Klan for its violent tactics, he continues to kick up dust.

Roll Call here refers to the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux fucking Klan as a "controversial figure." I'm not sure that's really the word for one of the Founding Fathers of a universally loathed and constantly ridiculed hate group. David Duke and Daniel Carver aside, there really aren't that many people left who will openly and fervently pro-KKK position. And with good cause! Doesn't that then bring an end to the group's "controversy" and kickstart its "infamy"?

Anyway, a lot of liberals online have noticed...hey, that's odd...A Republican in 2007 just quoted the first Grand Wizard of the KKK on the House floor. Carpetbagger Report went so far as to look up the actual quote and discover that Ted Poe misquoted the first Grand Wizard of the KKK.

And, just as an aside, the quote Poe used was wrong.

[A]ccording to historians, Forrest didn’t really say the line that’s so often attributed to him. “Do not, under any circumstances whatever, quote Forrest as saying ‘fustest’ and ‘mostest’,” Civil War scholar Bruce Catton wrote in his 1971 book, “The Civil War.” Catton wrote that Forrest actually believed the essence of strategy — and the proper quote — was “to git thar fust with the most men.”

What’s worse than quoting the founder of the KKK on the House floor? Quoting him incorrectly.


I think, amusing though it may be, focusing on the origin of the quote "fustest with the mostest" misses the point entirely. Yes, Ted Poe is a complete moron who doesn't realize that he should not idolize America's Noteworthy Racists just because they totally have the most kickass trading cards.

But in principle, there's nothing wrong with quoting a known racist on the subject of military tactics. We can't possibly be held responsible for all the beliefs of individuals who may have said something quoteworthy or done something important. Anyone citing Nathan Forrest on the subject of race relations or modernization would be completely wrong-headed, but the guy was regarded highly as a general.

No, I don't really care that the guy quoted a notorious, significant racist from America's past (which is saying something, because our history is chock full of ordinary, unremarkable racists!) Instead, I think we're all missing the significance of this event.

Shockingly, on this issue, I agree with right-wing hack Captain Ed:

It's more than a little ridiculous to say that using this quote indicates some kind of support for the KKK. It's an anecdote used by people to talk about military strategy, as Poe clearly did, instead of some invocation of racism. It's not particularly bright of Poe to quote Forrest -- especially since the quote is essentially meaningless as well as fabricated -- but discussing Forrest's military acumen (which was considerable) doesn't mean people support the Klan, a point that is rather obvious when considering authors such as Catton who catalogued Forrest's strategic thinking.

For instance, do lawyers who reference Hugo Black support the Klan as well? If not, why not? Poe referenced Forrest's military strategy, not his views on race. Referencing Black's viewpoint on law should also then connect to his activities in the Klan ... right? That's the Carpetbagger standard.

In what is surely a career-first, Ed is exactly right on this count. The Carpetbagger here sets a standard no one could keep to - taking personal responsibility for any fool thing a person you're quoting may have done or said.

However, as is his trademark, Ed still manages to be sort of wrong, because he refers to Poe's remarks as "not particularly bright" when it fact they are "nonsensical to a degree that is, for an elected official serving in the United States government, pathetic." Poe reaches back into the Civil War era for a citation that essentially translates from Dumbfuckistani into "whoever gets more troops and more guns quickly wins."

Ooooohhhh, brilliant insight, Herodotus. I'll just forward that urgent memo to Petraeus and I'm sure he'll get right on it.

The point, folks, is not that a racist made up this quote, but that it's meaningless and it's the best these guys can do at this point. He's saying that we have to remain in this war indefinitely even though we're clearly losing, and when the opposition questions this bold statement, the response is "well, we should just focus on getting the most people there with the most guns quickly, even though it's already more than 4 years after-the-fact, and then we won't have to give like you cheese-eating Surrender-crats want to."

That argument's thinner than Flint Marko's character arc. And that's what's insane. That anyone would have the temerity to stand up in the midst of America's greatest foreign policy blunder EVER, in front of his colleagues and a national television audience (well, alright, C-SPAN) and announce that we have to stay in Iraq because iffin' you dun't get thar furst then, well suh, you're enemys might up and git thar befores you does and then you cain't vury well have no shot at winnin' that thar war, now can ye? I don't care if he quotes Cardinal motherfucking Richelieu on the floor of the House - it's the grasping-at-straws Fantasyland spectacle of grown men and women literally begging the American people to prolong a senseless war that I find so distasteful.

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