Sarah Palin’s fans are nothing if not resourceful. Indeed, in some respects, they are good deal more resourceful than the object of their idolatry. In response to the chuckles that her halting and somewhat fractured attempt to explain the story of Paul Revere’s ride, they have dug up a passage from Revere’s memoir of the event in which he claimed to have evaded capture by a British patrol by telling them that the militia, whom he roused, was coming. Her fans, as well writers like William A. Jacobson, the author of the Le-gal In-sur-rect-tion blog, believe that means everyone who had a chortle at Palin’s expense must apologize.
The answer in this corner is: Not exactly.
First, the question that Palin appeared to be answering was what was the point of his ride. The answer to which is obviously that he and fellow rider William Dawes (who is largely forgotten to history mainly because Henry Wadsworth Longfellow felt two heroes didn’t make for as interesting an epic patriotic poem as one) were warning the Patriots that British were on the march, not the British about the Patriots. The fact that one of them ran into some Brits and fibbed about Americans coming in that direction is interesting but it isn’t really the answer to the question. If anything, a better argument to justify Palin would be to say that hers was a grand symbolic explanation in the sense that Lexington and Concord was a warning to King George that Americans would not be deprived of their liberty. But if so, it just shows she was trying to fake her away out of giving a specific answer in a manner that is all-too-familiar to those who have followed her career the last few years.
That said, Revere’s quote does technically get her off the hook. Of course, if you believe that this minor incident in the story of the ride is what she was thinking of when she answered the question then you are probably among the minority of Americans who think she deserves to be trusted with nuclear weapons. Because anyone other than a Palinite who watches the video of her answer knows very well that her bumbling response shows she was having a hard time coming up with a coherent answer. Palin’s inability to speak in clear, precise terms about questions of large importance as well as small (such as this) is a chronic problem. She is an articulate woman and many of her positions on the issues are actually quite sound. But she is unable to explain them in any depth because her body of knowledge is tissue thin. Whenever pressed by an interviewer who is not there to puff her, she stumbles and usually blunders. The fact that some of her gaffes can wind up being rationalized in some manner does not justify the pretense that she is person of substance.