Published on
The Nation

One If By Misstatement, Two If By Ignorant: Palin Gets an "F" in American History

Why is Sarah Palin touring American historical sites?

Apparently to because she has decided to try and learn some basic details of the country’s founding story.

Unfortunately, the endeavor is not going well.

Even with conservatives cutting education budgets, every schoolchild who has paid even scant attention in history class knows that “the midnight message of Paul Revere” was a warning to the rebels of what would become the United States that the British redcoats were on the march to disarm the dissenters.

But that was news to Palin.

When she got to Boston, with the apparent purpose of recalling Revere’s ride at the Old North Church, the former governor of Alaska started talking about: "He who warned, uh, the British that they weren't going to be taking away our arms uh by ringing those bells and making sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed."


It is tiresome to pick on Palin. She has taken more than her share of hits on matters of geography, newspaper reading, American allies and favorite founders. Even conservatives ridicule her -- it was Glenn Beck who pressed her on the favorite founder issue.

Truthfully, there is no point to piling on.

Palin is not going to run for president because (as the polling makes abundantly clear) Republicans do not want her to be their candidate, because (as the polling makes even more abundantly clear) Americans would never elect her and because she is not about to give up her lucrative book, broadcasting and speaking fees to go back into public service.

It has ever been the case that Palin’s patriotism extends only so far as it benefits her own self-interest.

What is now equally evident, however, is that her historical bumbling is not a misstep here, a misstatement there. It is a pattern, a pattern of disconnection with and disinterest in the American story. Like so many politicians, she uses American history as a prop, not as inspiration, and certainly not as instruction.

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