Video of the Day: Perry Echoes Kerry and Langston Hughes on America

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Speaking in New Hampshire Friday night, Texas Gov. Rick Perry delivered what some are characterizing as a "bizarre" series of remarks in which he appears to have dropped the political persona he normally has at events for a more giddy, almost giggly style of presentation.

But more notable to me was what Republican presidential aspirant had to say at the 7:15 mark: "I'm for saying it loud and saying it proudly. We are the land of the free. Let's let America be America again and again be the land of the free. God bless you and thank you all for coming tonight."

"Let America be America again" was the slogan of the John Kerry-John Edwards campaign in 2004, a line adopted from the poet Langston Hughes' 1935 poem with that title. "The poet Langston Hughes put it in this way: 'Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be.' - for those 'whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain must bring back our mighty dream again,'" Kerry integrated the saying into a speech in the summer of the year he contested President Bush. "In 2004, with your help....with John Edwards by my side.... we will bring back our mighty dream again."

Hughes was attacked on the right as an anti-American communist after the Democrats began to cite his poem. FrontPage magazine called it a "Stalinist campaign slogan" and James Taranto wrote about it in the Wall Street Journal Opinion section under the headline, "Red Alert," calling it a "communist-inspired slogan."

Earlier this year, Rick Santorum's campaign for the presidency came under fire for using a variant of the line on a presidential exploratory committee website.

Santorum backed away from the formulation after being told of its origins. "No I had nothing to do with that," he said. "I didn't know that. And the folks who worked on that slogan for me didn't inform me that it came from that, if it in fact came from that."

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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