Mary Jacoby, writing at, about Dick Armey:

Armey opposed the invasion. In August 2002, he met separately with Bush and Vice President Cheney in an attempt to talk them out of it. “I said, ‘This has the potential to be an albatross at election time.’ I was so desperate that I quoted Shakespeare instead of Jimmy Buffett,” he said. “I don’t know the exact quote. Something like, ‘Our fears betray us,’ or ‘Our fears make cowards of us all.'”

It’s hard for me to divine exactly what Armey was shooting for here. I assume he’s quoting Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy, of which I’ll quote a goodly hunk here. To save space on the server, and time for my busy readers, I’ve condensed fourteen rather wordy lines which are not relevant to my purpose into two.

So, should I kill myself? But death might suck!
Yes, that, I s’pose, is why more folks don’t do’t.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death-
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns- puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

Surely Armey was not advising Bush to kill himself? Nor advising him to think even less about his planned course of action? From what I can tell, Armey thought that Bush’s enterprises of great pith and moment should have been sicklied over a bit more with the pale cast of thought. And certainly it’s either very stupid or very smart to give Bush & Cheney a quote from a context which deplores

  1. Th’ oppressor’s wrong
  2. The proud man’s contumely
  3. The law’s delay
  4. The insolence of office

(The “contumely” link is a bit of a stretch, but it’s a blast from the past.)

Of course, I’m not 100% sure it’s Hamlet Dick Armey was shooting for here. He might, rather, have been echoing Dick III’s encouragement to his army, right at the end — not long before his death and his army’s defeat.

Let not our babbling dreams affright our souls;
Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
Devis’d at first to keep the strong in awe.
Our strong arms be our conscience, swords our law.
March on, join bravely, let us to it pell-mell;
If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell.

Coals to Newcastle. I hardly think that could be what Armey was after.

In sum, Armey’s quote makes no fucking sense at all. My guess is that he must’ve been searching to elevate his tone and grab more attention, and so he whipped out Bartlett’s, the magical source of powerful Shakespearean phrases. But this shit is like saying abracadabra when you mean alakazam, or klaatu barada when you mean klaatu barada nikto. I hope I’m not being unfair – I did my best. But this seems just stupid. If only he’d taken my fifteen-second writing course, he would have done all right.

10 Responses to “Inwit”

  1. snjoseph Says:

    I don’t think you’re being unfair. I hardly think it’s possible to be unfair to Dick Armey, honestly. Not only did he misquote the Bard, he misquoted him in a way that could not possibly help his argument. I hardly think Dubya would have noticed a fugazi quote in Armey’s favor:

    ARMEY: As Shakespeare said, “Ye gods, bomb Saddam? An albatross in November make!”

    BUSH: …oh snap!

    In any event, Armey voted for the war powers resolution two months after his private meeting with the White House. So maybe the stupid bastard’s faulty recollection of Shakespeare actually served to change his own mind!

  2. ezra Says:

    “Bourn” is such a great word. Do you remember Heaney’s use of it in the _Beowulf_ preface? It was good.

  3. Second Duke of Glockster Says:

    Yo–Dick3. I remember him. That nigga was FUKT up: all bent over and shit, always had that mean look on his face. Baddest mufucka in the hood.

    I remember this one time, we was hanging out smoking weed and the dude busted out: “Yo, dis ting love, man, dat white men call divine, it dwell in men like one another, not in me. I and I is myself alone.”

    That brother could cut some strong spliff.

    He was a O. G., too; put one in the head of this one dude, and then took that brother’s bitch right at the funeral. That was some cold shit! Damn, though, when he went, he lost it. Cops got him in a parking lot down in La Jolla. Nigga lost it–“A glock! A glock! My ghetto for a glock!” Can’t say I’m sad to see him go, though.

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