If everything goes right and Ahmadinejad bites it, the following quote will break out across the American Internets:

Is not a Patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help?

That’s what Dr. Johnson wrote to Lord Chesterfield after finishing work on his dictionary of the English language. Chesterfield just hadn’t been there for him, okay?

As you know, Obama is being careful about what he has to say on Iran, and some conservatives want him to be more splashy. When and if the bad guys lose, Obama will have less reason to be cautious and will say some nice things. At that point the propaganda mills of the right will churn forth columns, blog posts, and TV spiels wrapped around the above quote.

One of the awful things about pithy Europeans of long ago is that their remarks keep getting served up as justifications rather than entertainments. Because an old quote sounds good, and because it has a famous name attached, a certain class of mind will consider the quote to be in itself an argument. In high school I had a teacher who thought that “Lies, damn lies, and statistics” was actually a reasonable counter to the citing of any figure. Thirty years later I thought of a comeback: “Cliches, cliches, and banalities.” That wouldn’t have done me any good, but neither did “So what? So the guy said that,” which is what I said at the time. Of course, that is a reasonable response.

In any case … Hey, Doc Lawton, this goes out to you.

(I apologize for writing “entertainments,” plural, but I’m too lazy to think of something else.)

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