In the future, when I think about the textbook definition of America’s failed pseudo-elite, I’ll think of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.
In a Nov. 8 speech to Western state governors in Wyoming that was unearthed Monday, Cardona delivered this line about delivering technical assistance to states.
“As, I think it was President Reagan, said—‘We’re from the government, we’re here to help,’” he said.
In case you don’t believe me, here’s a clip of the quote.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona just said with a completely straight face "I think it was President Reagan who said, 'We're from the government. We're here to help.’”— Greg Price (@greg_price11) November 27, 2023
That’s certainly not what Ronald Reagan said.
The original, famous line comes from a 1986 press conference about agricultural policies in which Reagan said: “I’ve always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
Of course, Reagan was channeling the strong belief of many Americans at the time that the federal government had become too big and too intrusive, and was mostly incompetent at delivering solutions to the problems of American society.
For those who know almost anything about the 40th president, it would be unthinkable to construe the Gipper’s ethos as one in which he suggests that the government is the first answer to our problems.
Reagan wasn’t a huge fan of the Department of Education in his own day. He’d likely be even more horrified by the Department of Education in our day, since it is trying to force “gender-affirming care” on schools around the country.
On social media, Cardona was ruthlessly and appropriately mocked for the bastardized quote. It was quite a schooling.
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway called the misquote “chef’s kiss perfect.”
I actually find it chef's kiss perfect that the Education Secretary is this ignorant of history. https://t.co/3x4TUOqprv— Mollie (@MZHemingway) November 27, 2023
Journalist T. Becket Adams called Cardona’s version of the Reagan quote “too on-the-nose even for absurdist fiction.”
The "education secretary" misstating a well-known quote regarding bureaucratic incompetence is too on-the-nose even for absurdist fiction. Any good editor would send it back and say, "Too much." https://t.co/Q0VQIfR8nR— T. Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) November 27, 2023
I have a low view of our current crop of Biden administration officials, but this is surely one of the dumbest lines I’ve heard from that crew.
Even the reliably liberal “fact-checking” website, Snopes, couldn’t quite twist Cardona’s statement into a half-truth.
“Political pundits accused [Cardona] of ‘butchering’ or ‘misappropriating’ the quote, which is fair to say he did,” Snopes noted.
Under the most charitable interpretation of Cardona’s statement being a botched joke, it’s worth asking whether it’s wise to couch the Biden administration’s policies in a quotation from Reagan intended to point out the incompetence of government.
This moment is a good rejoinder to those who insist that the Department of Education is essential for quality education in this country.
Has American education really improved since the department was created in 1980? What does it say that the man who now leads it seems to be lacking in a basic understanding of history?
Whatever Cardona’s reason for botching the Reagan quote, it is an excellent illustration of the shallowness of our nation’s overcredentialed ruling class. Lacking both wisdom and a real education, they instead thrive on bland ideological conformity that stifles independent thought and elevates mediocrities.
America has had plenty of corrupt, incompetent, sinister, and downright crazy politicians and government officials in the past. But never before in our history have we had such uniform incompetence and ignorance embedded in positions of power.
Speaking of history, I’d say our country’s rulers should probably learn some of itbefore eagerly joining the mob in tearing our history down.
Let’s say you buy into the progressive-era ethos of replacing constitutionally limited government with an empowered, educated elite. How can one look at our current system and conclude that trading in America’s long tradition of self-government ushered in the rule of wise philosopher-bureaucrats?
I imagine even Woodrow Wilson would be horrified by the people who now have such power over our lives.
This problem isn’t just about Cardona or the Biden administration. It’s about the current failures of Western civilization and the United States.
When we think of the large and long-term failures of our government, when we think of the frayed and failing domestic institutions that have lost the trust of the American people, we should consider that our problem is not a few clowns in high places. The problem is an entire elite ecosystem that rewards the wrong values, that fails to develop the thinkers and leaders capable of leading a great society.
Our leaders know little about where we came from and less about where we are going.
Maybe one of the many reasons the leaders of our elite institutions stood by and watched, or outright cheered, when the mob came for the statues of our great men is that toppling monuments relieved them of embarrassing comparisons.