Campus Free Speech; 3D-Printed Housing; Patton's Bravado

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Good morning, it’s Friday, March 22, 2019, and the day of the week when I offer a historical quotation. Today, I have two, both from George S. Patton, the famous World War II general. It was on this date in 1945 that Patton sent one of the Third Army’s divisions across the Rhine River.

He was not the first American commander to do so. The Ludendorff railroad bridge had been taken amid heavy fighting by American soldiers two weeks earlier 100 miles south at a German town called Remagen. But Patton was the first American general to pause midway across a pontoon bridge and, with cameras clicking away, ostentatiously urinate into the Rhine.

“I’ve waited a long time to do that,” he said.

The wide and chilly waters of the Rhine had protected the German heartland since Roman times. But no river, no force of nature or man, could withstand the United States Third Army under Gen. Patton -- or, for that matter, any of the Allied forces under the overall command of Dwight Eisenhower. Thus did a second world war, one even more grisly than the first, begin to end.

In a moment I’ll have two Patton quotes that help explain his fighting spirit. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

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President Trump Takes a Stand for Students’ Free Speech. Ronna McDaniel applauds the president’s executive order to withhold federal research funding from universities that fail to support free speech on campus.

How 3D Printing Could Fix the Housing Crisis. In RealClearPolicy, Jacob Bruggeman writes that the technology has the potential to meet the demand for low-income housing, but regulatory obstacles must be removed.

Is Escalation Imminent in Western Libya? In RealClearWorld, Nathan Vest warns that the civil war, which has been contained to pockets of violence, could erupt further unless the United States re-inserts itself as a neutral mediator.

Socialized Medicine and Patent Theft. In RealClearHealth, James Edwards asserts that a bill sponsored by Bernie Sanders would make the intellectual property of any cutting-edge pharmaceutical entirely uncertain.

Lab Testing Is Vital to Achieving the Nation’s Health Goals. Also in RCH, Julie Khani urges Congress and the administration to enact policies allowing innovative and lifesaving tests to be rapidly developed.

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In “War as I Knew It,” George S. Patton’s posthumously published memoir, he provided a bit of management advice that is as valid for a leader of a peacetime nonprofit think tank as it is for a commander of a wartime tank division.

“Never tell people how to do things,” Patton said. “Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

That’s my first Patton quote. He lived this advice himself and was always surprising his higher-ups. (“Have taken Trier with two divisions,” he cabled to Dwight Eisenhower in response to a dated message warning him that it would take four divisions to capture the town. “What do you want me to do? Give it back?”)

The other quote comes courtesy of William Randolph Hearst Jr., a war correspondent who wrote about Patton for his father’s newspapers. This Patton-ism was related to young Hearst by Patton’s staff officers.

“Some goddamn fool once said that flanks have got to be secure,” Patton told them. “Since then, sonofabitches all over the globe have been guarding their flanks. I don't agree with that. My flanks are something for the enemy to worry about, not me. Before he finds out where my flanks are, I'll be cutting the bastard's throat.”

That sounds so aggressive it makes you wince -- until you remember that George S. Patton employed this attitude to lead the breakout at the Battle of the Bulge, to cross the Rhine before he was given explicit orders to do so, and lead the Third Army across southern Germany in 1945, liberating some of the concentration camps where people were dying at a frightful rate.

“George Patton,” Eisenhower wrote after it was all over, “was the most brilliant commander of an army in the open field that our or any other service produced.” 

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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