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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tocqueville and the Presidents

Neil Munro writes at The Daily Caller:
White House officials have quietly changed an official transcript to hide President Barack Obama’s embarrassing historical error during his international press conference with French President Francois Hollande.
Obama’s error came when he misnamed Alexis de Tocqueville, a clear-eyed Frenchman who explained the subtle miracle of American culture and democracy in the 1830s. His book is a classic, partly because his insights about Americans’ social equality and civic society have become commonplace among centrists and conservatives.
But Obama called him “Alex” in front of the French and U.S. press, and while facing banks of TV cameras.
White House’s official transcript, however, hides the presidential error by using the correct name. It now says that Obama declared: “Alexis de Tocqueville — that great son of France who chronicled our American democracy.”

President Hollande said:
I was referring to history earlier on. It unites us. Tocqueville is suddenly a reference. Always a reference that is current in France: How far can you go when it comes to equality and how far can you go when it comes to freedom? And the revolutionaries who wanted the independence of America, those who wanted a republic in France had this thing in common -- they wanted to be as bold as possible when it comes to freedom and liberty, and they wanted to be as respectful as possible when it comes to equality. This is precisely what the American Dream is made of -- and it is also what the French Dream is made of. Even though many have their own little dream, but the ambition remains exactly the same. We want to be together again.
The comments are noteworthy in a couple of respects. Hollande glossed over the Reign of Terror.  And it was odd to assert that "the French Dream" (a phrase that practically nobody uses on either side of the Atlantic) is the same as the American Dream.  Democracy in America is an extended treatise on the differences between the two countries.