Andrew Malcolm of the Los Angeles Times comes to the defense of the former Governor:
You 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.
The rest here, with more examples from both parties on how the narrative takes over.
The real problem with Palin, however, is that she’s just not polished enough yet at answering these dumb questions or filling dead time with reporters to avoid any issues. For example, a good answer to Katie Couric’s answer on what newspapers she reads could have been, “You’re asking because you think people in Alaska aren’t informed about politics in the lower 48?” Put the questioner on the defensive. Couric would have followed up with, “We’re just trying to get a handle on what shapes you as a candidate.” Hopefully Palin had a home-run answer to that one, Governor of an oil-producing state, intimate knowledge of energy issues, mother, small business owner, etc.
And for what it’s worth, here’s Chris Wallace on Palin after he interviewed her on Sunday:
“I thought she was a boffo performance today. It was the first time that I ever saw her and thought ‘this woman is a serious – if she decides to run – candidate for President. And a serious possibility to be President.’”
We’ll see if she runs, but if she does, I do hope she learns that her speaking from the heart is endearing to her fan base, but she’s got to learn to use it to not give ammunition to her opponents.