The Decline and Revival in Standards of Pompous Grandiosity

A hitherto unknown to me, but apparently famous exchange from the tense final days of the July 1914 Crisis (May, Ernest R. and Samuel R. Williamson, Jr., “An Identity of Opinion: Historians and July 1914,” The Journal of Modern History , 79, June 2007, pp. 335–387):

Famously, when Moltke protested that it was too late to concentrate forces on the Russian front rather than in the west, the kaiser exclaimed: “Your illustrious uncle would not have given me such an answer. If I order it, it must be possible.” (p. 361)

Compare this to the tepid legalism of Richard Nixon:

Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.

(interview with David Frost, aired on television on 19 May 1977)

Kaiser Wilhelm II was at least disjointed enough to think that he could mandate the possible, not merely the legal.

But thank goodness our leaders have gotten back into the business of denigrating reality in favor of will.

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