Good morning, it's Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, the day the week when I reprise an instructive or inspirational quotation. Today's comes from Winston Churchill, a statesman whose eloquence did not readily come to mind during last night's tedious set-to between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
It's true that both men were less rude than the first time they debated. It's also true that NBC correspondent Kristen Welker moderated with poise and professionalism. But truth took a beating Thursday night. Media fact-checkers could have saved themselves time by examining whether a single thing either candidate said was fully accurate, let alone fair.
Propaganda certainly has its place in politics, as in war: As John F. Kennedy said of Sir Winston: "In the dark days and darker nights when England stood alone -- and most men, save Englishmen, despaired of England's life -- he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle."
On Oct. 23, 1941, Congress put its money where its mouth was when it came to "Lend-Lease," Franklin Roosevelt's way of circumventing U.S. neutrality in World War II by providing ships, planes, and other wartime materiel to the British. Although an isolationist-mined Congress initially resisted funding Lend-Lease adequately, 79 years ago today it passed a supplemental appropriation of $6 billion. That was a great deal of money back then, especially during the Great Depression. But those funds helped saved the civilized world.
Two-and-a-half weeks later, in a speech at London's Mansion House, Prime Minister Churchill praised his American cousins. "The Lease-Lend Bill must be regarded without question as the most unsordid act in the whole of recorded history," Churchill said. It was a line he would reprise in the House of Commons three-and-a-half years later upon Roosevelt's death.
At some point, Churchill's arresting turn of phrase was misappropriated: It was said that he was talking about the postwar Marshall Plan at the time. I believe this historical error was first made by Dean Acheson, who should have known better, and repeated frequently. I've probably done it myself.
Strange things like that happen with quotations, for various reasons. In this case, most people remember the Marshall Plan, while Lend-Lease became a vague memory. On this morning, the 79th anniversary of the generous congressional appropriation, let's remember how the recipients of FDR's creative wartime legislation viewed America's largesse. "Then came the majestic policy of the president and Congress of the United States in passing the Lease-Lend bill," Churchill said. "Never again let us hear the taunt that money is the ruling power in the hearts and thoughts of the American democracy."
That's the kind of people we were once -- and can be again. It's also our quote of the week.
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.