FDR did NOT say “In politics, nothing happens by accident.”

In a column at WorldNetDaily, Marylou Barry quoted the 32nd President:

“In politics there are no accidents,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said. “If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

Barry does not provide a source or a citation for this quote. In fact, her wording is a paraphrase of a more common variation on the quote. And curiously, no one who quotes FDR as making this statement seems to know where or when he said it. An odd omission, given that a Google search for “In politics nothing happens by accident” + roosevelt produces 54,000 results.

Research into uses of the statement or variations thereof don’t immediately produce any instances prior to the 1970s. Not a good sign for a quote attributed to a man who died in 1945. Rather, the earliest use is found in the 1971 conspiracy theory book None Dare Call it Conspiracy, by Gary Allen and Larry Abraham.

From the second page of Chapter 1:

FDR once said “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.” He was in a good position to know. We believe that many of the major world events that are shaping our destinies occur because somebody or , somebodies have planned them that way.

And from Chapter 2:

Every conspirator has two things in common with every other conspirator. He must be an accomplished liar and a far-seeing planner. Whether you are studying Hitler, Alcibiades, Julius Caesar or some of our contemporary conspirators, you will find that their patient planning is almost overwhelming. We repeat FDR’s statement: “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

Neither usage is sourced or footnoted. And with no earlier usage located thus far, it is curiously convenient that the first appearance of a conspiracy-endorsing statement attributed to FDR should have been in a conspiracy-endorsing book. As such, the evidence strongly suggests that this quote’s attribution to Franklin Delano Roosevelt is bogus.

Where Is “Ambush Bug: Year None” #6?

After a decade and a half without a comic to his name, Ambush Bug returned to the comic stands in July 2008 with a new 6-issue mini-series, Ambush Bug: Year None. The first five issues came out more or less as scheduled, with the sixth and final issue first appearing in the September solicitations:

Ambush Bug Year None #6

Written by Keith Giffen & Robert Loren Fleming
Art by Keith Giffen & Al Milgrom
Cover by Darwyn Cooke
Our last issue of this stunning, award-winning literary masterpiece takes us deep into the mind of Ambush Bug. The other 21 pages will be just as exciting, we promise.
On sale December 24 * 6 of 6 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

But #6 did not appear on stands in December 2008. DC issued no comment on the delay, but editor Dan DiDio addressed the question at Newsarama on February 25, 2009:

16. When will we see the last issue of the Ambush Bug series?

DD: It is being completed as we speak – the last issue is on my desk. It’s one book that I can say quite honestly that hit the editor’s desk and got stuck there. We’re just making a couple of revisions to the story, and I felt the likenesses were a little too complimentary, so I had to make them a little worse.

As confirmation of the book’s completion, letterer Pat Brousseau and colorist Tom Smith confirmed in April 2009 that they had long since finished their work on the issue.

Dan DiDio was asked about the missing issue again on April 29, 2009:

16. Where is Ambush Bug #6?

DD: Right here on my desk.

NRAMA: Complete and finished?

DD: Ummm…a work in progress. It should be out within the next month to month and a half at the latest.

That, of course, was two and a half months ago.

DiDio commented again on June 17, 2009:

9. A pretty simple question from a reader: Will we see Ambush Bug #6 before Blackest Night #1?

DD: (laughs) It’s good that we hit this question every time. I know exactly where Ambush Bug #6 is – it’s still in the same place it is the last time I was asked this question. I might have put my money on “yes” for a while given those choices, but now, I’m going with 50/50.

NRAMA: What’s the holdup?

DD: We’re just working out some of the last changes on it, and right now, everybody’s plate is full, to be honest. We’re ready to roll with it as soon as Keith is ready to go – Keith’s been working very hard on Doom Patrol and Magog, and really doing great stuff. Once he has that stuff in hand at reaches a point where he can catch his breath, we’ll get it out.

Blackest Night #1 came out earlier this week. Ambush Bug #6 is still MIA.

Finally, DiDio was asked again this week, July 16, 2009:

Freebie: Let’s get this in: Ambush Bug #6?

DD: Still on my desk.

At this point, Ambush Bug #6, the last issue in a monthly series, is seven months late, and has been on Dan DiDio’s desk for at least five months, even though he stated it was “being completed” in February.

Whatever is causing this issue to remain plastered to Dan DiDio’s desk for the better part of a year, I think we almost have to assume that it relates to an editorial desire to have pages, or at least panels, redrawn. DiDio makes it clear that he needs Giffen’s contribution, and Keith isn’t necessary if the problem is dialogue. DeMatteis is the scripter, after all, and editorial could always write its own material and have the relevant parts relettered. No, Giffen is essential at this stage only with regard to the art. Do they want to change aspects of the parody of Final Crisis? Do they want to remove Jann Jones? Did DiDio finally get fed up with his depiction?

Eisenhower, on Holocaust Denial

Another day, and another questionable quotation drops in my lap. And this time it’s offered as a compliment to the attributed author, and to a much more praiseworthy author at that:

“Get it all on record now – get the films – get the witnesses – because somewhere down the track of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.”

– General Dwight D. Eisenhower, on future Holocaust denial

Still, I had to raise an eyebrow to this. It seems a little too colloquial, a little too punchy, to have come from the pen of one of our greatest WWII heroes. The blog I found the quote cited Wikipedia as its source, and Wikipedia cited…Dominican Today. And here I was expecting maybe, oh, a book about Eisenhower, and not a foreign newspaper article.

Plus, as is the warning sign of many a spurious quotation, even Wikipedia’s source doesn’t offer up when Eisenhower supposedly said this. In fact, Dominican Today hedges its own bets by prefacing the quote by saying Eisenhower “said in words to this effect…” It’s all but confessing it’s a paraphrase, and not an actual quote.

The quote doesn’t turn up in a single book indexed on Amazon or Google Book Search, so it might still be early enough to nip it in the bud. Some quick web searches fail to turn up any uses of the quotation prior to December 2007, with wider citation beginning in early 2008. Not a good sign for a supposed author who died in 1969. The earliest use I’ve seen is in Oregon Magazine on or just before December 1, 2007. And even it uses the paraphrase-hinting “words to this effect” language.

So the literal quote is bad. But did Eisenhower say something to that effect? As luck would have it, he did. As related on page 223 of “Dear General: Eisenhower’s Wartime Letters to Marshall‎,” (available on Google Books) Eisenhower wrote:

The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they [there] were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit [to Gotha] deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda.”

Similar sentiments, but not quite as soundbite friendly. Hopefully by tackling the bad quote this early it won’t make it into actual books, which makes it that much harder to kill. Which would be a pity, because the real quote paints a much richer picture of Eisenhower’s true distress and concern for posterity.

Rush to Judgment

I’m no fan of Rush Limbaugh. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a blowhard who too many people, including himself, consider to be the de facto lead conservative thinker in the country. Oh, for the days of William F. Buckley.

On the other hand, I have this thing about apocryphal quotes, so I feel compelled to come to Rush’s defense on a small matter.

It’s a quote that’s floated around since 1993, at one point working its way into a book by Al Franken, and while I thought it might have finally been consigned to ignorant blog comments, the other day it found its way into a press release from the National Organization for Women:

On that point, it’s important to note that when Chelsea Clinton was 13 years old she was the target of numerous insults based on her appearance. Rush Limbaugh even referred to her as the “White House dog.”

– Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director, June 11, 2009

Now other websites have taken on the apocryphal nature of this quote before. Wikipedia has a lengthy discussion of it, with the consensus being that it didn’t happen that way. Consult those websites for the full story; here’s the Cliffs Notes version.

On November 6, 1992, three days after the Presidential election, Limbaugh did a segment on his TV show about an In/Out list produced by David Hinckley of the New York Daily News. Here’s the transcript of what happened on that show:

LIMBAUGH: David Hinckley of–of the New York Daily News wrote this, and what he has–he’s got–it’s very strange. He says, In: A cute kid in the White House. Out: Cute dog in the White House.’ Could–could we see the cute kid? Let’s take a look at–see who is the cute kid in the White House.

(A picture is shown of Millie the dog)

LIMBAUGH: (Voiceover) No, no, no. That’s not the kid.

(Picture shown of Chelsea Clinton)

LIMBAUGH: (Voiceover) That’s–that’s the kid. We’re trying to…

This transcript, reportedly from Lexis-Nexis, has floated around the web for a few years, and reliably shows up whenever someone cites Limbaugh’s “White House dog” incident. However, rather than nip the quote in the bud (or at least make people, like NOW, use a real quote rather than a made-up one), the response to the actual transcribed evidence has been to claim that there were two separate incidents, with the REAL “White House dog” comment occurring in 1993.

And it’s that mysterious “1993” incident that I want to address.

Now, folks who cite the existence of a second Chelsea/dog incident never date it any more specifically than “1993.” No time, no date, no month; just the year. Since the story hinges on a visual event, it can be assumed to be Limbaugh’s television program, but that’s about it for details. Yet despite being a TV show (and one that multiple Limbaugh-haters claim to have personally witnessed), there is no footage. Nor has a transcript ever surfaced.

A cursory news search for Limbaugh/Chelsea stories turned up just one of note, a short article called “Low blows,” which appeared in Newsweek on May 17, 1993:


Why did Bill Clinton take a verbal jab at Rush Limbaugh? At a recent Washington dinner, Clinton joked that the talk-show host defended Janet Reno after Rep. John Conyers grilled her on the Waco fiasco “only because she was attacked by a black guy.” Limbaugh complained he’d been called a “racist.” White House aides say Clinton-who’s supersensitive about his daughter-was getting back at Limbaugh for comparing Chelsea to George and Barbara Bush’s dog, Millie, on TV. Limbaugh’s producers say he apologized after “the wrong photo” was aired when Chelsea was mentioned. They say they don’t recall if it was a photo of a dog.

Clearly a reference to the November 1992 incident. Since Newsweek doesn’t reference a second incident, it seems logical to assume that one hadn’t happened before May 1993. So this is hardly a source to back up a second incident.

As far as sources go, defenders of the “1993” incident rely mainly on two: “Lyin’ Bully”, a 1995 opinion piece by Molly Ivins:

On his TV show, early in the Clinton administration, Limbaugh put up a picture of Socks, the White House cat, and asked, “Did you know there’s a White House dog?” Then he put up a picture of Chelsea Clinton, who was 13 years old at the time and as far as I know had never done any harm to anyone.

and “16 Candles for Chelsea”, a 1996 opinion piece by Roxanne Roberts:

The first lady was…even angrier when Rush Limbaugh took this shot: “Everyone knows the Clintons have a cat,” said Limbaugh. “Socks is the White House cat. But did you know there is also a White House dog?” And he held up a picture of Chelsea.

Two things of note about just these two pieces. First, both specifically cite Socks the cat as being part of the ‘joke.’ Second, Ivins and Roberts disagree over the type of image used. Ivins says it was displayed on a screen; Roberts claims Limbaugh held up a photo.

Opinion pieces from two years after an alleged event are hardly the best sources. Surely if Limbaugh did what they claim, someone would have mentioned it sooner. For instance, mention of the November 6, 1992 incident can be found on Usenet at least as early as November 17, 1992 (“Chelsea insult, apology,” posted by Linda Jensen to alt.rush-limbaugh). So when did the Ivins/Roberts 1993 version start getting passed around?

This much I know: I have yet to find even a single Usenet post before October 12, 1993 citing the Ivins/Roberts version of the story, or claiming that the photo ‘joke’ was repeated with the inclusion of Socks. The significance of October 12, 1993 is that that day saw the printing of “Mega-un-dittos from here, Rush,” an opinion piece by Molly Ivins that was published in the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram. The column was also syndicated in multiple papers across the country. In it, Ivins wrote:

Perhaps it is not fair to hold a radio talk-show host responsible for the several idiocies of his listeners, so let’s consider Limbaugh himself. Here is a Limbaugh joke: “Everyone knows the Clintons have a cat. Socks is the White House cat. But did you know there is also a White House dog?” And he puts up a picture of Chelsea Clinton. Chelsea Clinton is 13 years old.

Even then, note that Ivins doesn’t cite a date, or give any indication when this allegedly happened (i.e., early in the year, or days before the column was written?). Not that she necessarily should; this is just an opinion column. But it’s telling that even the earliest use of this version of the story cites no source, provides no date, and gives no indication that this was an incident independent of the documented one on November 6, 1992. To the contrary, if Rush had made the same cruel ‘joke’ TWICE, you’d think Ivins would want to mention that. It would certainly undercut his claim of “It was a mistake” to do it again.

In any case, by at least July 1994, FAIR was reporting Ivins’ version as authentic, and Usenet posts were beginning to spread it (Tracy Monaghan, seattle.general, 7/8/94). By January 1998 there were avid defenses of the accuracy of the Ivins’ version over claims of inaccuracy (Watson Aname, alt.rush-limbaugh, 1/6/98).

But there appears to be no citation of the Ivins version of the story prior to Ivins herself putting it in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in October 1993. And in the 16 years since, no one has yet managed to produce a date or transcript of a supposed second, parallel photo ‘joke’ by Limbaugh. Nor has anyone managed to produce any contemporary mention of Limbaugh executing the same photo ‘joke’ after having claimed the first was an accident. It’s an allegation that continues to rest solely upon the undated, unsourced recollections related in opinion columns that were printed years after the incident supposedly took place.

Admittedly, there are those who claim they happened to watch Limbaugh enact Ivins’ version onscreen, even if they can’t remember when. Memory, unfortunately, is not a reliable source in these matters. I have personally interacted with Obama-haters who claim they personally witnessed Obama say on TV that he wanted to change the National Anthem to “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” Obviously, that didn’t happen. It’s an urban myth. I showed them the evidence, and they still swore that they saw it happen. Both of these stories exhibit the same quality of sourcing and citation, relying on op-eds and personal recollections rather than reliable news reports.

Could I be wrong, and could there have been a second incident where Rush “accidentally” called Chelsea a dog? Perhaps. And perhaps Obama really did say he wanted to change the National Anthem. But I doubt it.

The Incredible Shrinking AJC

The redesign of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution got plenty of attention back in April, but one noticeable change that ironically drew the least reaction was the reduction of the paper’s size from a 48-inch broadsheet to 44 inches. While this saves on the cost of newsprint, it’s resulted in a front page that is actually square when folded. You may have noticed how much empty space is now present in the machines on the street.

Longtime AJC readers of course know that this is not the first time the paper has reduced its page size. But the effect of multiple reductions over time is more severe than most might think. So I dug through my personal archives (i.e., my parents’ garage) and have put together an evolutionary illustration of the AJC’s shrinkage over the last five decades:


The six papers displayed are:

June 3, 1962
April 9, 1974
May 10, 1986
September 12, 2001
April 26, 2009
May 10, 2009

Here is the current AJC contrasted with the oldest paper I have, the Atlanta Journal special edition from June 3, 1962, following the Orly Field plane crash:


That’s a front page of 15 1/2 inches compared to 11 inches. Now to be perfectly fair, that paper is 47 years old, and from a time when there weren’t 4+ separate daily sections to accommodate the day’s content. The individual page was larger, but there were simply fewer pages printed. So let’s compare the new AJC to a more recent, and more internally similar, edition:


The width of the front page has shrunk 1 1/2 inches in just eight years. One somewhat surprising aspect of this evolutionary change is that while the paper has grown progressively, and radically, thinner in width, the height has remained relatively unchanged since the Kennedy administration. While the broadsheet has dropped from 31 inches to 22 inches in width, it’s only gone from 23 to 22 in height. Given that we now have a paper that’s square when folded, I expect that the next reduction will be in height.

And after a few repetitions of that, we’ll find ourselves with an Atlanta newspaper that’s not much bigger than the Fulton County Daily Report or the DeKalb Champion.