"Rep. Poe Quotes Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard On House Floor":

So reports Think Progress. Horrible! Except that the wizard (Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest) wasn't being quoted for any of his wizardly views, but rather for the famous military advice, "Git thar fustest with the mostest."

Are we really going to insist that political leaders -- or, I take it, any other public figure -- stop quoting racists? That they stop quoting bad people generally? That they stop quoting leaders responsible for immoral violence? No more quotes of Napoleon (a megalomaniac responsible for millions of deaths)? None of Mao Tse-Tung, a very bad man who nonetheless captured something insightful (though obviously not the whole story) when he said, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun"?

How about Stalin's "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic," itself something of an indictment of Stalin but also a regrettably accurate description of the way human psychology often works? How about quotes from noted anti-Semite Henry Ford? Noted anti-Semite Martin Luther?

Remember, we're not talking about their racist, anti-Semitic, or pro-pass-murder views. We're talking about things they said on quite different subjects, things that have passed into common usage because they're seen as insightful or well-put.

How much of our vocabulary of phrases would we have to bowdlerize to accomplish this? If that's thinking progress, I want none of it.

Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer. Note also that there is a separate and irrelevant dispute about whether the quote, while famous, is precise; Roll Call reports that "Civil War scholar Bruce Catton ... wrote that Forrest actually believed the essence of strategy -- and the proper quote -- was 'to git thar fust with the most men.'" I mention this to forestall others' bringing this up; it's clearly unconnected to the propriety of Rep. Poe's using the more familiar version.