When Palin Was Right and the Mocking Media Were the Fools


palinYou may have heard recently something about that Sarah Palin telling a reporter that Paul Revere warned the British on his famous rousing revolutionary ride.

Now, that so many Americans have wallowed in their smug confirmation that Palin is an idiot unqualified for anything but repeating sixth-grade history, how far, wide and fast do you think the contradictory news will spread that the former governor of Alaska was indeed correct?

That the Republican non-candidate, in fact, knew more about the actual facts of Revere’s midnight ride than all those idiots unknowingly revealing their own ignorance by laughing at her faux faux pas? How secretly embarrassing this must be, to be forced to face that you’re dumber than the reputed dummy.

As it happens, though, such phenomena are regular occurrences in American politics, reminding consumers of news to be wary when some fresh story seems to fit contemporary assumptions so absolutely perfectly.

The well-known fable is Revere’s late-night ride to warn fellow revolutionaries that….

…the British were coming. Less known, obviously, is the rest of the evening’s events in which Revere was captured by said redcoats and did indeed defiantly warn them of the awakened militia awaiting their arrival ahead and of the American Revolution’s inevitable victory.
Palin knew this. The on-scene reporters did not and ran off like Revere to alert the world to Palin’s latest mis-speak, which wasn’t.

Like a number of famous faux gaffes in American politics, the facts of the situation no longer really matter.

The initial impression was eagerly grabbed by so many, starting with the reporter and millions of others gleefully sharing the story that reinforced their beliefs and/or desires.

This phenomenon is actually not a new one in American politics, although its immediate spread is obviously hastened by the Internet. Speaking of which, Al Gore did not invent it. Nor did he claim to, as often as you’ve heard otherwise.

In 1999, the hapless former journalist, who should have known to make a better word choice, told CNN that in Congress he “took the initiative in creating the Internet.”

Democrat Gore never used the word “invented.” That was part of another willful misinterpretation that fit expectations of Gore’s boasts and was gleefully spread by opponents as further proof of his unseemly hubris. It lives on to this day.

Perhaps you remember how one day during a photo op President George H.W. Bush was overheard asking a store checkout clerk how this price scanner thing worked?

That quote was immediately transmitted as proof of how disconnected that Republican chief executive was, that he had no knowledge of something as ordinary as a checkout scanner.

The fact is, asking such inane and often obvious questions as “what are you doing here?” is a bipartisan ploy used by politicians to fill the awkward time void they are hanging around someone working while photographers snap their photos several hundred times.

President Obama likely said much the same thing last Friday in that Toledo Chrysler plant when for the benefit of nearby photographers he feigned interest watching assembly-line worker Anthony Davis install a dashboard instrument panel. (See photo below)

A classic example of this faux faux pas was in 1992 when Vice President Dan Quayle agreed to participate in a New Jersey classroom spelling bee.

Working from a placard, Quayle corrected one sixth-grader by telling him to add an “e” to “potato.” Journalists gleefully noted the spelling misteak. And Quayle’s dunce hat was glued in place.

Trouble is, that mis-spelled placard was actually written out by the classroom teacher herself, either through her own ignorance or, a few suspect, some sly political set-up. Quayle knew he hadn’t written it and thought the error was the point of the lesson.

And because the classroom spelling bit was a last-minute addition, aides who would have foreseen the everlasting damage of their boss inexplicably adding a mistake to a student’s work did not know what the placard said. Quayle subsequently forbade them from explaining the error to the media, for fear of embarrassing the teacher.

One of the immutable laws of public communications in politics and other fields is, if you have to explain something, you lose. Seeking to explain you were for something before being against it simply digs a deeper hole.

This time the mistake for Palin, who used to be accused of dodging reporters’ questions, was bothering to answer such an amateur media gotcha question in a noisy, moving crowd. Better would have been a simple dismissive and cheery, “You’re kidding, right?” Such are the ongoing lessons for primary candidates. Which she isn’t now, of course.

Early in a previous race for the Republican presidential nomination almost 12 years ago, then Texas Gov. George W. Bush was in a jammed New Hampshire airport meeting room, answering questions from local media. Apropos of nothing, one reporter (perhaps prompted by an opponent’s camp) asked Bush his pre-written gotcha: Name the new president of Pakistan.

Obviously, Pervez Musharraf had nothing to do with New Hampshire issues and is similar to some Democratic candidates flubbing the name of Russia’s then prime minister during 2008 debates (Dmitry Medvedev).

Bush didn’t know the Pakistani leader’s name that day and looked clumsy attempting to answer. He could have brushed it away by instantly asking the reporter some arcane political who’s-who, laughing off their mutual ignorance and quickly taking the next question. But he didn’t and took media lumps for several days.

As everyone now knows, such a splashy gaffe can effectively doom any chance a candidate has of winning two terms in the White House.

{Andrew Malcolm-LA Times/Matzav.com}


  1. ok so let me get this straight, Palin meant to focus on Paul Revere’s capture and informing (warning?) of the British? Cmon do you expect us to beleive that? Do you? Is that the point of the Paul reveres’ ride? Even if that is what she meant, that would make her comment dumb and not just a gaffe, that part of the stroy wouldnt even work as her metaphor so even if to her that is the point, it has no relevance here, unless she meant she was warning the chinese or al queda (ie america’s rivals/enemies)
    Big deal she had a gaffe, her last few years have been full of them we all laugh and wait for the next one to inevtibly occur. “Expaling” it away with nonsenseical explaniations (i loved the conspiracy and assumptions surronding Quayles’ gaffe) doesnt help anybody it just makes he look despearte and thus worse.
    Obama has gaffes too (and lets not even discuss biden) remeber “57 states” Of course their was an expalantion, and in context it was understandable but thats not the point. The politician gaffes the media picks up, we all laugh and we all move on.
    Sadly the move on part doesnt work for Palin, which only proves how petty and childish, she is aside from being gaffe-prone.

  2. Nothing beats Obama just signing in the Queens guest-book “2008”.

    – – but Obama is Obama and Palin is Palin…

  3. #3, i dont promote Obama I promote emes. And the truth is Palin gaffed. Big deal, it happens (ok to her more than others so what?) It happens to Obama too I cited “57 states” as an example #2 brought up “2008” another great example. We laugh at them and move on.
    Only Palin is so Petty as to try to explain (or have her supporters do it) how it wasnt a gaffe and that really… Paul revere did warn the british yada yada.
    The question to you though is what is driving some to criticise Obama for nothing (recent examples include “67′ borders” golfing on memorial day, and of course the birth certificate) Is it parroting Rush limbaugh talking points? Is it something else?
    I dont defend Obama I critice him all the time but for real and substatial reasons not for nonsense

  4. Yankel hit it dead on.
    Here is the full quote “He who warned, uh, the … the British that they weren’t gonna be taking away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells and, um, by making sure that as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were gonna be secure and we were gonna be free … and we were gonna be armed.”
    No she was not talking about how “Revere was captured by said redcoats and did indeed defiantly warn them of the awakened militia awaiting their arrival ahead and of the American Revolution¬ís inevitable victory.”
    But she is such a child, that she just cant let it go and has to defend an obvious gaffe no matter how far she has to strecth our imaginations in an attempt to achieve that.
    Oh and the “gotcha question” that prompted her word salad: “what have you seen so far today and what are you going to take away from your visit?”