In 2005, in a ceremony that officially designated then-state Rep. Marco Rubio as the first Cuban-American House speaker in Florida history, then-governor Jeb Bush stated in his speech:
“Chang is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society. I rely on Chang with great regularity in my public life. He has been by my side, and sometimes I let him down. But Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down.”
Then Bush presented Rubio a golden sword and explained its significance. “I’m going to bestow to you the sword of a great conservative warrior,” he said.
There’s just one problem. The inscription on the sword reads: “C-H-I-A-N-G,” not, “C-H-A-N-G.”
“Unleash Chiang” was the rallying cry of John Birchers, who in the 1950s urged the United States to arm Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese Nationalist leader, so he could retake Red China from Mao Zedong. The motto later became sports trash talk in the Bush family (like when George H.W. would warn from the baseline that he was about to “unleash Chiang” with his next serve).
Some journalists covering the Rubio ceremony did not recognize the allusion and wrote it up straight. Rubio himself clearly did not understand the story’s origins.