Monday, June 06, 2011


"Make sense!"
-A goblin

Quayle's Potatoe
Sarah Palin in a speech recently referred to Paul Revere's famous ride, but she did so a bit differently than most do:
“Paul Revere warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms 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.”
Now, immediately, people jumped on this as proof of what a dunce Palin is, how ignorant she is of history and so on.

What's interesting is the response that this has generated. Not only has it pushed Palin back into the spotlight instantly, granting her tons of free publicity, but it has been odd to see how people react. The right predictably leapt to her defense, and the fact is, there is a lesser known story about Revere's ride where he was caught by British colonial troops and he told them straight up that the rebels were gathering and going to fight. What Sarah Palin said was actually true and historically accurate.

The people who are mocking her for being a grade A idiot for not knowing history are, ironically, themselves less historically astute, although being ignorant of this particular bit of the story is a bit more forgivable than not knowing that Revere road to warn about the British would be.

But the LA Times ran a great article, different from their usual extreme left slant, which was pretty fair about the whole episode. Andrew Malcolm pointed out the British capture episode, and then noted several other moments when politicians said something that seemed goofy and has become infamous.

He trotted out the "Gore invented the internet" bit, which is technically fallacious, but as Malcolm puts it:
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."
There's not a lot of difference between "create" and "invent" and overall Gore's statement was hilariously false, but Gore did push hard in congress to help fund expansion of the hardware that the internet largely depends on to this day. You pay for it every time you pay your phone bill.

Malcolm points out some other statements that were mocked and have gone down in popular culture history:

-President Bush the elder asking a store clerk how the laser scanner worked (see, he's out of touch!1!!!!1!!) As Malcolm points out:
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.
-Dan Quayle correcting a child on how to spell Potato (what an idiot, he can't spell potato!)
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.
What a mean-spirited Republican, taking the hit to save a teacher's reputation.

Missing from the list are dozens of Obama gaffes and flubs, which have been piling up like leaves in fall. Why not mention them? Well we've been over this a thousand times so no reason to retread, but here are a few to consider:
  • "One such translator was an American of Haitian descent, representative of the extraordinary work that our men and women in uniform do all around the world -- Navy Corpse-Man Christian Brossard." –mispronouncing "Corpsman" (the "ps" is silent) during a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, Washington, D.C., Feb. 5, 2010 (The Corpsman's name is also Christopher, not Christian)
  • "The Middle East is obviously an issue that has plagued the region for centuries." --Tampa, Fla., Jan. 28, 2010
  • "UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? It's the Post Office that's always having problems." –attempting to make the case for government-run healthcare, while simultaneously undercutting his own argument, Portsmouth, N.H., Aug. 11, 2009
  • "The reforms we seek would bring greater competition, choice, savings and inefficiencies to our health care system." --in remarks after a health care roundtable with physicians, nurses and health care providers, Washington, D.C., July 20, 2009
  • "It was also interesting to see that political interaction in Europe is not that different from the United States Senate. There's a lot of -- I don't know what the term is in Austrian, wheeling and dealing." --confusing German for "Austrian," a language which does not exist, Strasbourg, France, April 6, 2009
  • "What I was suggesting -- you're absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith..." --in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who jumped in to correct Obama by saying "your Christian faith," which Obama quickly clarified (Watch video clip)
  • "I'm here with the Girardo family here in St. Louis." --speaking via satellite to the Democratic National Convention, while in Kansas City, Missouri, Aug. 25, 2008
  • "Just this past week, we passed out of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee -- which is my committee -- a bill to call for divestment from Iran as way of ratcheting up the pressure to ensure that they don't obtain a nuclear weapon." --referring to a committee he is not on, Sderot, Israel, July 23, 2008
  • "On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes -- and I see many of them in the audience here today -- our sense of patriotism is particularly strong."
  • "I've now been in 57 states -- I think one left to go." --at a campaign event in Beaverton, Oregon (Watch video clip)
  • "In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died -- an entire town destroyed." --on a Kansas tornado that killed 12 people
Now, its easy to say we live in a shallow culture for which appearance and slick delivery matters more than content and person, based on this. When someone is intelligent and has a great mind for ideas and policy (like, say Dan Quayle, believe it or not - read his writing some time) but isn't a great speaker, the public mocks them because we're in the age of the soundbite where ideas don't matter. The problem is, that's only true for one side.

Each time President Obama does something like this (signing the date 2008, for example), the press ignores it or explains it off (oh he's tired, oh, he just flubbed it, anyone can do that). Which is fine because they're probably right.

President Obama is not a Muslim and he does not think the US has 58 states. He's a pretty smart guy who believes in no god higher than himself. It is unreasonable to expect someone to speak in public constantly on record and never, ever make a mistake or misstatement. You and I both flub what we are saying several times a week, if not daily, and people might giggle a little or poke you in good-natured fun, but they know what you mean.

The problem is, again, the inconsistency. If Dan Quayle says something goofy, then every comedian for twenty years uses it as a go-to gag. If President Obama does, they act like there's just no material there and can't even remember what he said. If Sarah Palin says something silly, its proof positive she's a knuckle dragging sub-normal intellect. If President Obama does it, he was just tired that day.

Holding people to this kind of standard isn't just unreasonable and unfair, its deliberate. The word for it is "calumny," when you presume the worst of someone before they speak or take action, the use everything they do or say as evidence of your prejudice. When a Mexican guy sits down after a hard day of work in the shade for a rest, the bigot cries "see, he's lazy!" When the white guy has a gut and shops at Wal*Mart, the bigot cries "see, Americans are fat and worthless!" When a young guy has his hat sideways, has an orange faux tan, and drives a cube because advertising told him it was cool... wait, no that is evidence he's a douchebag.

The point is that the left - and their members in the media and entertainment community - are so filled with the unreasoning bigotry and hate they presume is in the right that they're incapable of viewing their political opposition rationally and objectively. Any flub by their guys is just them being human, you can't expect people to be perfect. Any flub by their foes is proof they're worthless, stupid, out of touch, clueless, incompetent, and unworthy of office.

The right does this too, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter (especially) do it routinely. They're waiting for a mistake then pounce on it savagely as evidence of their political enemies venomous nature.

That's unfair, unjust, small-spirited, and petty. But that doesn't bother me nearly as much as how the culture responds. Sarah Palin is considered a hick and an idiot with a possibly incestuous family not because of anything she's actually done but because of the relentless incessant narrative delivered by a hateful press and popular culture. Many people still think that Palin said she can see Russia from her house, something Tina Fey said while playing Palin on SNL.

The primary reason for this is that people get their news not from the source, but from secondary sources. Most folks don't watch the news or read about events. They watch Saturday night Live and The Daily Show where they're spoon fed the events in a carefully managed narrative delivered by virulently leftist radicals who despise Sarah Palin (and fear her, a little).

I can understand, if condemn, political zealots hating their enemies and thinking the worst of them. That's wrong but not surprising. What's frustrating to me is the mindless agreement by people who are largely apolitical to whatever they're handed by political zealots. Listening to some biased, angry pundit about someone else then believing it as the word of God is lazy and intellectually immature.

Perhaps worse, its lazy. Its so easy these to go to the source and find out what this person actually said - in context - and why. Its fine to watch or listen to some pundit, just don't treat them as the final word and have the minimal discernment to realize that they have an agenda and are trying to get you to see things their way. Yes, that includes comedy shows like The Daily Show. Jon Stewart isn't just trying to get you to laugh, he's trying to get you to view things through a specific political lens.

Maybe they're right, but don't presume they are without finding out, even if you really like them or they make you laugh.

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