What base ingratitude [corrected]

Winston Churchill held former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin in low esteem. It might not be an exaggeration to say he reviled Baldwin. When asked to send Baldwin an 80th birthday note, Churchill declined. “I wish Stanley Baldwin no ill,” he commented, “but it would have been much better had he never lived.” Four months later, when informed that Baldwin had died, Churchill responded: “Embalm, cremate and bury. Take no chances” [but see correction below].

Richard Langworth tells the story in “How Churchill saw others: Stanley Baldwin.” Langworth’s account collects the memorable quotes and supplies the sources. See also Langworth’s Churchill By Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations.

As told by Langworth, the story has a higher purpose. It shows the limits of Churchill’s magnanimity. Churchill’s antipathy to Baldwin is not difficult to explain. As Langworth explains, Churchill held Baldwin responsible for Britain’s lack of preparedness for the war.

Langworth adds one more memorable quote to the mix. During the Blitz, when informed that a German bomb had fallen on Baldwin’s house, Churchill quipped, “What base ingratitude.”

That last quote comes to mind in connection with the verbal assaults on Special Counsel Robert Hur. Biden and his allies have relentlessly defamed and disparaged Hur for noting Biden’s mental incompetence. Hur laid out the evidence of Biden’s incompetence in the report he was required to prepare setting forth the findings of his investigation.

Hur found Biden to have mishandled classified documents and disclosed classified information in violation of applicable laws. He found Biden’s misconduct to be “willful” in certain cases. Given the facts he found, Hur could easily have held prosecution to be appropriate. His findings establish the elements of relevant offenses.

However, Hur found prosecution to be inappropriate. He premised this crucial finding on Biden’s mental incompetence (despite his finding of Biden’s “willful” misconduct). Recommending no charges (even if/when they could be filed), Hur was required to explain himself. He had to come up with something.

Under the circumstances, it wasn’t easy. I’m sure he’s sorry that Biden’s incompetence was the best he could do. Hur concluded that conviction would be unlikely — a jury would take pity on him.

Following the release of Hur’s report on Thursday afternoon, during Biden’s hastily-called press conference that evening, Biden himself ranted in his familiar old-man angry style. Biden’s spokesmen, his Senate allies, and other fellow Democrats have faithfully followed up with further attacks on Hur.

What base ingratitude!

CORRECTION: Richard Langworth writes to advise that his most recent account of the story is set forth in “Churchill’s Magnanimity: Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947)” (2021). He also gently corrects the context I attribute to one of the famous quotes: “[T]hat wonderful line ’embalm cremate and bury–take no risks’ was from a 1938 newspaper article, not uttered after ‘Honest Stan’ died. WSC was referring however to Britain’s failure to rearm–so you were close enough to the target!”

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