Friedman makes a point that I thought too at the time, but I didn’t dwell on it because the whole thing is so silly. Yet since Friedman is getting beaten up in his comments, I want to endorse his (modest) point: The people laughing their tushies off about this episode, would have you believe that Sarah Palin thought that Paul Revere was trying to warn the British in order to help the British. But of course, that’s not what she was saying. She meant, he was warning the British the same way I was warning Krugman not to turn his back on an Austrian. I wasn’t actually a Keynesian spy in that video.
I know if I don’t explicitly say this, people are going to get mad in the comments. So here you go folks: No, I don’t think Palin had in mind the subtlety that Revere got captured and then told the British not to mess with the colonists. I personally had never heard that before, so probably neither did Palin (unless she had just taken a tour or something).
But what is so ridiculous about this whole thing, is that I think what the critics are really saying is something like, “Can you believe it?! Sarah Palin can’t repeat the 15%-true fable we all grew up with! It’s as if she said Santa Claus lives at the end of the rainbow, when everybody knows Santa Claus lives in the North Pole. No way would she make a good president.”
Let me also endorse Friedman’s view that you shouldn’t be criticizing Palin (or Obama or Biden or Dan Quayle…) for their “moronic” public statements, unless you’ve given 30 radio interviews yourself. I have said really dumb stuff on the air.
Or take this example. During my Congressional testimony, Rep. Jim Jordan couldn’t subtract 1913 from 2011 (or maybe it was 2008) on the fly. In other words, he was trying to figure out how much the Fed had done in such-and-such years, and he stumbled on the math problem. The thing was, I was trying to do the number too, and I couldn’t. I actually got concerned that he was going to ask me for the number, and I had even prepared a joke to explain that I wasn’t going to do it and risk embarrassing myself on camera.
So: Are we to conclude that, “Oh my gosh Robert Murphy is such a moron he doesn’t know how to subtract 1913 from 2008?!?!” Well maybe some of my interventionist critics will do so in the comments, but I think my math skills are just fine. In fact, precisely because it was so easy, I was choking. If Jordan had asked me to briefly explain Godel’s incompleteness theorem, I would have been much more comfortable at that moment.
Another point, which will probably sound sexist but I don’t think it is: I think the beauty pageant thing is relevant here, but not in the way her critics intend. Rather, I think a lot of pretty girls growing up found it was more advantageous to act ditsy (whether subconsciously or not).
I’ve said this before but I’ll repeat it: The “classic” example of Palin’s moronitude actually showed that she is crafty. When Katie Couric was trying to trap her and asked what newspapers and magazines she read, Palin said “all of them, any of them.” Most people concluded, “A ha! Palin doesn’t even know a single newspaper.”
I don’t think that’s what happened. I think she realized she was stuck (since she doesn’t regularly read newspapers or magazines–a practice I share with her) and she decided to just fold the hand and move on. If she had said, “The New York Times,” then Kouric might have said, “Oh, what columnists in particular?” or, “Oh, what recent events have you been following?” I think Palin knew she was dead on this point, and wanted to just take her lumps and move on, rather than digging deeper.
So in conclusion: I think Sarah Palin knows that Paul Revere supposedly warned the colonists “the Redcoats are coming the Redcoats are coming!”, and I think Sarah Palin could name a newspaper and a magazine. Just like I know how to subtract 1913 from 2008.