Oops: Time.com Makes a Few Errors in Feature Recounting Politicians' Historical Gaffes

In a feature entitled "Don’t Know Much About History: Epically Wrong Politician Accounts of Yesteryear," Time magazine's Swampland blog crew promised to break down "nine egregious examples of the type of revisionist flub you can expect in 2012," starting with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) arguing John Quincy Adams was a Founding Father.

Time made sure to toss in President Obama and Vice President Biden in the mix, the list was predominantly comprised of Republican 2012 presidential hopefuls. On some counts, Time was spot on, but in others the magazine was either inaccurate, patently unfair in its criticism, or both.

Deriding Sarah Palin for her inartfully-put account of Paul Revere's midnight ride, Time.com echoed MSNBC's Chris Matthews by snarking that she was shoehorning a pro-gun rights talking point into her later explanation of the historical event:


Paul Revere’s midnight ride on April 18, 1775 was to warn the colonial militias that British troops were en route. Bells and gun rights? Not so much.

Actually, the British regulars were coming for two reasons: to seize and arrest patriot leaders and to confiscate weapons.

So the march to seize militia weapons was a mission to infringe the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

Here's a little history lesson for Time courtesy of the National Park Service (emphasis mine):

What was the reason for the British expedition to Concord?
On the evening of April 18, 1775, General Thomas Gage sent approximately 700 British soldiers out to Concord (about 18 miles distant) to seize and destroy military stores and equipment known to be stockpiled in the town. His orders to Lt. Col. Smith, the British officer who was to lead the expedition, were as follows:

Having received intelligence, that a quantity of Ammunition, Provision, Artillery, Tents and small arms, have been collected at Concord, for the Avowed Purpose of raising and supporting a Rebellion against His Majesty, you will march with the Corps of Grenadiers and Light Infantry, put under your command, with the utmost expedition and secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and destroy all Artillery, Ammunition, Provision, Tents, Small Arms, and all military stores whatever. But you will take care that the Soldiers do not plunder the inhabitants, or hurt private property.

Under great pressure from his superiors in England to bring Massachusetts back under control of the "lawful government," General Gage sent the troops to Concord in the hopes that by doing so, he could convince the colonists to back down, and thus avoid an armed rebellion.

General Gage also believed that seizing stockpiles of weapons was not only a military necessity, but also his prerogative as governor of the colony. The colonists actively disagreed.

Under the heading "Originalist Sin," Time editors scoffed at Rep. Ron Paul's (R-Texas) insistence in January 2008 that "The Constitution was written explicitly for one purpose: to restrain the federal government."

"Tea Partyers might only cite the Constitution for one purpose, but the document actually vastly increased the power of the federal government at the time. Before that, under the Articles of Confederation, centralized authority took a backseat to the states," Time argued.

Yes, some new powers were granted to the federal Congress -- particularly the power to "lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises" --  but the most important changes were arguably the institutional ones regarding Congress and the establishment of a strong chief executive and an independent judiciary.

What's more, a comparative reading of the Articles and the Constitution shows substantial carryover between the two in terms of powers delegated to the federal government, powers either restricted or altogether barred of the states, and the rights and privileges of citizens moving between the states.

The Constitution's aim was to create a "more perfect union" that better "secure[s] the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our Posterity," not to endow a central authority with limitless powers.

Finally, Time.com took a patently unfair swipe at former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) for saying of World War II veterans:

The very Americans that our government now, and this President, does not trust a to make decision on your health care plan. Those Americans risked everything so they could make that decision on their health care plan.

"Abstractions aside, Hitler wasn’t plotting to force Americans to purchase health insurance.," Time editors snarked. "And about those soldiers wounded in battle? They got full-blown socialized medicine straight from Uncle Sam."

Santorum, of course, was making a rhetorical argument that the Greatest Generation fought to secure freedom, and that mandatory purchase of health care a la ObamaCare is the antithesis of personal freedom.

But to Time, that's a mere "abstraction," that shouldn't get in the way of bashing conservatives as know-nothings on American history.

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