O’Malley Begs for Time, Misquotes Ben Franklin at Debate

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via JHU Hub
via JHU Hub

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley gave comedy writers plenty to work with in his performance at Sunday night’s Democratic debate.

And by “plenty” I mean this one desperate moment when O’Malley begged moderator Lester Holt to give him “just 10 seconds” to jump in on a question posed to Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Holt ignores O’Malley’s pleas,  continuing his pre-commercial break patter. Watch:

(Click the loudspeaker to hear audio.)

O’Malley enjoyed the least amount of speaking time of the three candidates. According to USA Today, the televised debate featured 14 minutes of O’Malley, compared with 27 minutes of Clinton and 30 minutes of Sanders. But relative to his poll numbers, he made out like a bandit.

O’Malley misused a quote by Benjamin Franklin. That moment will not likely provide much late-night comedy fodder, seeing as almost no one gets it right.

In answering a question about government surveillance, O’Malley invoked the founding father. “I also agree with Benjamin Franklin who said no people should ever give up their privacy or their freedoms in a promise for security,” O’Malley said.

First of all, “privacy” doesn’t belong to the quote. The original 1755 statement reads as follows: “those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Secondly, it doesn’t mean what you think it does. The Brookings Institute’s Benjamin Wittes explained the original context in a 2011 blog post. Far from weighing in on a zero-sum game of government surveillance and personal liberty, Franklin was explaining why Pennsylvania’s colonial legislature should reject a deal to relinquish its right (or “Liberty”) to tax lands owned by the Penn family in exchange for a one-time cash payment from the Penns to fund frontier defense (or “a little temporary Safety”).

For more on the garbled history of that favorite libertarian nugget, read this Tech Crunch article.


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