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What’s more eyebrow-raising than quoting one of the original grand wizards of the Ku Klux Klan on the House floor? Misquoting him.
On Monday, Rep. Ted Poe took to the House floor to discuss foreign policy matters. To make a point, the Texas Republican invoked the words of Civil War Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest: “Git thar fustest with the mostest.”
The quotation got some floor watchers’ attention pretty quickly. Forrest is a controversial figure who was one of the Klan’s first grand wizards. Although the Civil War hero (if you were a Confederate, that is) ultimately abandoned the Klan for its violent tactics, he continues to kick up dust, with a row still going on about whether to keep a public park and school named after him.
And, according to historians, Forrest didn’t really say the line that’s so often attributed to him. “Do not, under any circumstances whatever, quote Forrest as saying ‘fustest’ and ‘mostest’,” Civil War scholar Bruce Catton wrote in his 1971 book, “The Civil War.” Catton wrote that Forrest actually believed the essence of strategy — and the proper quote — was “to git thar fust with the most men.”
A spokeswoman for Poe said it’s the thought that counts.
“The reference to Forrest was used in an historical context comparing the request to Congress for support of the Confederate troops to the request that is being made today by our Generals in Iraq,” DeeAnn Dunaway Thigpen wrote in an e-mail.
Poe’s Forrest tribute, though it caused a stir, wasn’t his only recent oratorical flourish. He has lately been a font of sheer Poe-try. Last week, Poe complained that the House had approved funding for the study of “Phayre’s Leaf monkeys” but had yet to approve military spending. “Mr. Speaker, we need to work as late tonight to provide money for our U.S. warriors as we did last night to send money to the monkeys,” he said, calling it “monkey business” to delay further on military funding. “And that’s just the way it is,” he concluded.
Marijuana Money. The Marijuana Policy Project is doling out some goodies to House freshmen — in the form of campaign cash (what else?). The group, which promotes the use of medical marijuana, gave $1,000 each to Democratic Reps. Tim Walz (Minn.) and Dave Loebsack (Iowa), and $2,000 to Rep. Joe Courtney (Conn.) during the previous campaign cycle.
Aaron Houston, the group’s director of government relations, says its legislative priorities include staving off federal raids of patients who use medical marijuana in the 12 states where it’s legal and that the donations went to Members who are sympathetic. “We like to support those who have a compassionate approach to medical marijuana,” he says.