Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Out of Dormancy, to torture the hapless Luskin
In response to Krugman's column (the latest? I don't know) Luskin tries to pick a nit-

THE MOST UN-FACT-CHECKED COLUMN IN HISTORY Referring to the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild post-war Europe, Paul Krugman says in his New York Times column today that

"...Truman led this country in what Churchill called the 'most unsordid act in history'..."

Reader Richard A. Rampulla and our friend Bruce Bartlett have both pointed out to me that this statement by Winston Churchill was about the Lend-Lease Act, not the Marshall Plan. In a 1940 speech (listen to it yourself, here), Churchill said that Lend-Lease was "the most unsordid act in the whole of recorded history." So Krugman not only rewrote the quote, he had it referring to the wrong thing. Ironic, too, considering that Lend-Lease was a compromise by which a hawkish American president (a Democrat, too, if I recall) managed to get American resources into the war when the nation as a whole was still opposed to joining hostilities.

Pretty damning, no? Well, I decided to do some googling, and I found this site which includes a collection of photographs and speeches by Gen. Marshall. On this page, in big red letters;

Then Secretary of State Marshall first proposes what was to become known as "The Marshall Plan". When this plan was proposed, Sir Winston Churchill, who had formerly declared the Lend-Lease bill as "the most unsordid act in all of recorded history", changed his mind and declared this plan to be worthy of such description.

Mr. Luskin, learn to use the google! Admittedly, this is not an authoratative historical source, but I have little reason to doubt it.

UPDATE: It seems that I am being unduly harsh. It is clear from further googling that while both quotes are cited frequently in popular histories, at least some historians (notably Arthur Schlesinger) have stated that this Churchill quote only applies to Lend Lease. Nevertheless, it seems to me that this is hardly an instance of sloppiness or poor fact checking on Krugman's part. There are a number of reputable sources which attribute the quote re: the Marshall plan to Churchill, which is surely a sufficient base for this statement.