Increasingly Erratic Schultz Mangles MLK's Best-Known Quote

Lefty radio talker Ed Schultz ended his "Voices of America" tour in Asheville, N.C., last week by distorting a universally known quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. far greater that Sarah Palin's skewing of a remark by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Here's what Schultz said at the end of his "town hall meeting" in Asheville, which was broadcast on his show Thursday (audio available here):

I think we as Americans, in this part of the country, we have to step forward and we have to take a page out of history and remember what Martin Luther King said -- you must judge a man by the character of his heart and the content of his heart and not the color of his skin.

Agreed, Schultz is paraphrasing Dr. King's words and not quoting him verbatim. But even as paraphrase, Schultz's retelling is wide of the mark, at least to this observer's ears, and more closely echoes the views of a current political figure.

First, what King actually said from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963 during the civil rights era March on Washington (13:34 into the clip) --

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will be not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!

It is on the basis of the first sentence above that King's oratory, arguably the most inspiring in American history, is remembered and revered as the "I Have a Dream" speech.

Not only does Schultz sound like he's fumbling to recall King's words, he also substitutes one of the two most essential words in the passage -- "heart" for "character" (the other essential word being "color," for King to make his appeal that character trumps all, including color).

I replayed Schultz's remark for my wife, who thought Schultz misquoted King, and described it to my minister, who had the same reaction (although he did not hear Schultz say it and went by my description). I would not go so far as to say Schultz misquoted King because, first of all, Schultz wasn't directly quoting the civil rights leader but paraphrasing him. Yet in doing so, Schultz misses the mark much more than Palin when she cited an observation from Albright.

In this YouTube clip from last month, Palin quotes Albright, citing a Starbucks cup as her source -- "There's a place in Hell reserved for women who don't support other women." The only difference from what Albright actually said is Palin substituting "support" for "help," yet the reaction from liberals was predictably indignant (Albright, for example, told The Huffington Post that it was "yet another example of McCain and Palin distorting the truth").

In his dubious paraphrasing of King, Schultz sounded like he was evoking the views of a more contemporary African-American leader -- Barack Obama -- in what Obama says would be his main criterion in selecting judges.

Edward Whalen wrote of "Obama's Constitution: The Rhetoric and the Reality" in The Weekly Standard on March 18 --

... Although Obama has served in the Senate for barely three years, he has already established a record on judicial nominations and constitutional law that comports with his 2007 ranking by the National Journal as the most liberal of all 100 senators. Obama voted against the confirmations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, and he even joined in the effort to filibuster the Alito nomination. In explaining his vote against Roberts, Obama opined that deciding the "truly difficult" cases requires resort to "one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy." In short, "the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart." (emphasis added) No clearer prescription for lawless judicial activism is possible.

Indeed, in setting forth the sort of judges he would appoint, Obama has explicitly declared: "We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old -- and that's the criterion by which I'll be selecting my judges." (emphasis added) So much for the judicial virtue of dispassion. So much for a craft of judging that is distinct from politics.

And so much for picking judges of exemplary character.

Typical of Schultz, who has been hit with a virulent strain of Palin Derangement Syndrome, he opened the forum in Asheville by saying this (audio available here):

You know, our Voices of America store, uh, tour started a couple of months ago in the planning stages and of course the obvious first trip was Anchorage (laughter from audience) God, have you ever seen anything like this?! I mean, I have never seen somebody make news (pause) with her clothes on! (tentative laughter from audience) I mean, it's just crazy!

And you have seen "somebody" make news with her clothes off ...?

Paging Dr. Freud, STAT!

2008 Presidential Audio Ed Schultz Martin Luther King Jr. Sarah Palin