Presidential Mis-Quotes – Deliberate or Mistaken?

Is it any wonder many Americans do not know and are not learning of America’s history and civics, when the President of the United States, in a public address, demonstrates that he does not himself know what the official motto of the United States is?

It’s actually quite simple.  The motto of the United States is, “In God We Trust.”  It’s printed on our currency and appears on many of our coins.  Even if this fact had slipped the President’s mind as he was speaking last November to a crowd at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, all he would have had to have done to refresh his memory would have been to pull out a dollar bill.  Of course, with the huge White House staff — including a multi-person research and speech-writing team — at his beck and call, one would expect that his staff would have noted the correct motto for his speech in the first place.

What is interesting, however, is that the President might have deliberately mis-cited the motto in order to make a political point.  You see, Mr. Obama said in his speech that the motto of the United States was “E Pluribus Unum” – correctly translated by him as “From Many, One.”  The President then made the point that our country’s motto is similar to Indonesia’s (which translates as, “Unity in Diversity”).  Because he was speaking to a predominately Muslim audience in a predominately Muslim country, he perhaps did not want to offend by appearing to bring religion into his speech by quoting the actual, official U.S. motto rather than the previous one, which until changed by official act of Congress in 1956, was “E Pluribus Unum.”

However, the President commits a grave disservice to our country, and especially to our youth, by either deliberately mis-citing our motto, or by not knowing what our official motto is.

Several Members of Congress have written to the President complaining of his apparent ignorance on this matter, and offered to meet with him to explain the motto.  They have received no reply from the White House.

The Jakarta speech was not the first example of the President deliberately or ignorantly mis-citing historic documents.

On October 18th, President Obama errantly quoted the Declaration of Independence at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser. His version of the document apparently read, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that each of us are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Noticeably missing from his quote was the reference to the “Creator,” which term appears clearly and prominently in the Declaration.

This President, or any other of our nation’s chief executives, is entitled to make whatever points he wishes in any speech he desires; he can pander to any audience he’s of a mind to.  But the President of the United States should not be permitted to deliberately mis-quote our founding documents, our official motto, or other official documents.

Of course, to be fair, if Obama truly did make these oratorical missteps in error, then the remedy is simple – fire his speechwriters and hire new ones; men and women who will set a better example for our citizens by respecting and honoring our history and heritage.

- by Bob Barr, The Barr Code

85 comments Add your comment

Jefferson

January 21st, 2011
4:40 pm

Backed up to get your check this week I guess…

Daniel Boone

January 21st, 2011
4:41 pm

Hotlanta

Why don’t you sit in the back of the bus with yo babys momma and wait for your reparations check from the demorats

ncgreybr

January 21st, 2011
5:31 pm

Joel…don’t know how to break it to you but Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

Bob….aren’t you stretching it a little to find an excuse for a column?

Grits

January 21st, 2011
5:46 pm

I’m with you Bob, you’ve got a lot of addled minded liberals spewing venom. Keep up the good work!!!!

Dave

January 21st, 2011
5:48 pm

One of your weaker pieces. He did or didn’t purposefully misquote. If purposeful, oh the machinations! Us Americans trust in God. Which god, which Americans? Should we trust in original intent on this one? He screwed up in front of Muslims! What’s your point? Grave disservice? Come on.

ND

January 21st, 2011
6:09 pm

You know, you could be using your position as a former Libertarian presidential candidate to criticize meaningful overreaches committed by the government, instead of harping on relatively useless topics like this one.

Maybe Borat’s mom’s boob cheese has affected your brain power.

killerj

January 21st, 2011
6:12 pm

Gee,go figure and in front of muslims who we dare not offend while they cut heads off and stone people to death,how humane.Ala has a helluva lot of souls to send to hell.

DoninAcworth (but moving around)

January 21st, 2011
6:27 pm

Speak the truth Robert and these “haters” will get right at you. Obama minions are very watchfull so beware lest their responses contain a small amount of truth.

Brock

January 21st, 2011
7:33 pm

In god we trust? No, you really don’t. How else can you explain why those w/ fish emblems on their cars drive so painfully slow?

marko

January 21st, 2011
7:56 pm

So In God We Trust became our official motto in 1956. I’m not surprised. Isn’t that the same year that Georgia decided to put the Confederate battle flag on the state flag? Anyway thanks for the lesson Bob. I thought our national motto was God Loves Guns.

BRW

January 21st, 2011
8:11 pm

Ragnar, Bush’s hindsight ramblings are surely more accurate now than his real-time thoughts, or do you have the tape recordings to prove he actually WAS thinking when he gave famous one-liners like, “Mission Accomplished”, “Great Job Brownie”, etc?
It takes more than imigination to forget his failures and screw-ups. Brainwashing or water-boarding comes to mind here…..

BRW

January 21st, 2011
8:14 pm

Grits, Your moniker says it all. When you get cold you congeal like wasted semen.

DebbieDoRight

January 21st, 2011
9:08 pm

Bob Barr = A Wasted Life. Oh and a Wasted Colmn.

DebbieDoRight

January 21st, 2011
9:15 pm

Bob, honestly, how did you con the AJC into giving you a blog? You must’ve given one heck of a blow in order to get a sweet gig like this!!!

PS: I’m talking about hot air……………

Get Real

January 21st, 2011
11:45 pm

DebbieDoRight

DebbieDoRight

Aren’t you on the wrong blog? Shouldn’t you be over on Tucker’s blog soaking in and spewing out all the liberal dribble and singing the praises of your girlfriend…

carlosgvv

January 22nd, 2011
10:09 am

ncgreybr

The God Christians worship sent his son, Jesus, to be the Messiah. The God Muslims worship sent Mohammed to be his Prophet. The God Jews worship will someday send the Messiah. Most definitely NOT the same God.

Daniel Boone

January 22nd, 2011
11:17 am

Carlosgvv

Isn’t God really a right wing sponsor of the Republican party and an invention of their corporate masters? My goodness… you are capable of an original thought…my bad

carlosgvv

January 22nd, 2011
11:40 am

Daniel Boone

Most of the time Bob, Jay and Cynthia write about business and politics so that is what I comment on. If they write about the space station or life on other planets, I will comment on that. By the way, making fun of what I believe does NOT invalidate it and will not make it go away.

Get Real

January 22nd, 2011
1:39 pm

Daniel Boone @ 11:17 am

“Isn’t God really a right wing sponsor of the Republican party and an invention of their corporate masters?”

WTF?????

Intown

January 22nd, 2011
2:53 pm

This is just another stupid column. Every once in a while Barr really nails one. But, this one is more typical of his pointless drivel. So what am I supposed to glean from this? That Obama is some secret atheist who hates G-d? Is what Barr saying even accurate? who knows. who cares.

Intown

January 22nd, 2011
2:55 pm

@marko: you are exactly right. 1956 … not a banner year for liberty and justice for all.

BillyRob

January 22nd, 2011
3:30 pm

The lefties are out being civil and reasonable today. Nice to see that some things never change.

BRW

January 22nd, 2011
4:54 pm

And the righties are out quoting Beck, Hannity and Rush again today. Too bad they will never change.

Gnarly Erik

January 22nd, 2011
5:00 pm

No rational person has ever actually seen God, but he is believed to be a fierce, uncompromising, jealous old white male dictator with a beard, armed with a sword, lightning bolts and a 10mm Glock automatic. If God were to actually appear in the flesh anywhere on Earth today, he would immediately be either, shot, jailed or institutionalized by authorities as a deranged menace.

Michael

January 22nd, 2011
11:14 pm

I guess we know who took Nitpicking 101 in college. Wow. I’d like to know who out there knows that “In God We Trust” is our motto. Yeah, it’s on the back of the $1 bill. Know what else is? “Annuit Coeptis,” “Novus Ordo Seclorum” and “E Pluribus Unum.” Nowhere does it say “In God We Trust is the official motto of the United States.” I’m assuming all of this was changed during the McCarthy era so we could show how big and bad we were to those godless commies.

Same deal with the Declaration thing. Oh geez, he left out three darn words that don’t really make a hill of beans difference. Yeah, it’s wrong, but c’mon. It’s a couple of little mistakes. Ha ha, now how do we get millions of people back to work?

Ragnar Danneskjöld

January 23rd, 2011
8:05 am

Dear BRW @ 8:11, that was the surprise in the Bush book, the level of analysis for each decision, and the candor in recognizing the errors along the way. Other than the TARP section, where it sounded like he was faking it, did not go through any meaningful analytical selections – just bought what Paulson and Geithner were selling. Most of the book, on the big decisions, explores what he knew, what alternatives he considered, and why he made the decisions he made. Much stronger than I expected, and clearly he is brighter than all but maybe Jefferson and Nixon, both also flawed individuals. (He was not hampered by his ideology, like Carter and Wilson and seemingly Chauncey, and he served longer than Garfield.)

marko

January 23rd, 2011
8:55 am

E Pluribus Unum was adopted as our national motto in 1792. It’s Latin meaning is out of many one. It was intended to symbolize that thirteen diverse and separate states had joined to form a single new nation. It’s significant that it is written in Latin. Many of the founders honored the the ancient Roman republic, and used it as model for the new government they’d created. the phrase has tremendous cultural and historical significance. In God we Trust adopted in 1956 was our feeble attempt to annoy the godless commies on the other side of pond. The phrase first appeared on a two cent coin minted during the civil war. Again it was a simple case of propaganda. the north was trying to tell the evil slave holders down south that God was on their side. Today it seems a useful tool to annoy atheist, agnostics and those who truly believe in the separation of church and state. Congratulations you win. Here’s to glorious theocracy. May I suggest that we change our name to The United States of God. All in favor say Amen.

Deborah Fetkovich

January 23rd, 2011
10:12 am

My impression is that Mr. Obama is guilty of both: misstatements due to ignorance as well as deliberate distortion of historical facts. The interesting thing is that he probably believes the old adage that history is written by the victors, and therefore, feels no tug of conscience by revising the historical record to benefit those whom he regards as history’s losers.

Regarding e pluribus unum, Obama has that wrong, too. Our founders used it to convey the idea that the many colonies – while retaining their unique differences – needed to join together for national defense. As founder John Jay pointed out in The Federalist Papers, we were blessed by Divine Providence to be a people of one Judeo-Christian culture, speaking the same language, descended from the same ancestors, with shared customs and values.

Throughtout the history of humankind, multiculturalism has been a societal weakness – not a source of strength.

Mr. Obama is of course, our nation’s first black president. But a better description for the man would be to say he’s our first affirmative action president.

LeeH1

January 23rd, 2011
11:41 am

People who criticise others for misquotes, are themselves unable to misquote at all. I’m so pleased to finally meet someone who has o error in speech.

And also who applied the same standards of mis-speaking to the previous president. Or does he only criticise black ones?

snoortz

January 23rd, 2011
1:14 pm

Splitting hairs…

jt

January 23rd, 2011
2:00 pm

Baby Doc and Bob Barr?????????????????

Where is the apology to mankind? To basic decency? Where is the apologies to the victims of the drug war? To the Haitian genocide?

I don’t remember it.

The grouping may strike you as odd, but since both (Barr and Baby Doc)spent large portions of their lives implementing totalitarian policies that plundered their populations and killed countless people — and both claim to have reformed — it seems like a fitting enough match to me.

PainlessTruth

January 23rd, 2011
4:44 pm

I like how Bob keeps deleting my comments. Still holding a grudge ?

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devo

January 24th, 2011
12:21 pm

Hotlanta proves why a certain segment of our society should be required to have a mental evaluation and IQ test before being allowed to vote.

Shandon

January 24th, 2011
1:15 pm

Bob,
Re:Haiti/Baby Doc: You’ve got some ’splaining to do!